Those are profitable examples of investing in Alabama.
Given the nature of the Legislature and its inclination to avoid tax reform, do not expect much in the way of investment from those currently in Montgomery.
Well, giving credit where credit is due, the conservative, anti-tax Legislature did something that could be considered an investment in the state. Lawmakers passed — and Gov. Robert Bentley signed — a bill that will give an income-tax credit to farmers who spend that money (up to $10,000) improving existing or installing new irrigation systems.
Today, Mississippi and Georgia maintain more than 1 million acres under irrigation. Alabama has less than 120,000. And as the summer heat comes upon us, crops will struggle.
Alabama has extensive rainfall and surface- and ground-water resources that are not being fully used.
This is an area in which the Legislature was wise to invest.
In August, an “Alabama Irrigation Summit” will be held at Auburn University to educate farmers (and, we hope, some legislators) about the benefits of a state irrigation system. Water experts and agricultural economists say such a system could bring hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state’s rural economy. (For more information and to register, visit www.aaes.auburn.edu/water/conf/2012.)
However, some words of caution.
First, tax credits mean tax money that would go to government services and education will not be collected. It is the responsibility of the Legislature to make sure other programs do not suffer in the years it takes for the irrigation system to become productive.
Second, there are environmental considerations. Diverting water — rain, surface or ground — means there will be less water where it would normally be. This, plus the increased use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that will accompany increased agricultural production, can create serious pollution problems. This must be considered and carefully monitored.
And, lastly, if the promised jobs do result, Americans must benefit from improved wages and working conditions. We do not want to get into another illegal-immigrant mess like the one we have just experienced.
There are lots of things to consider along with this investment in Alabama. The meeting in Auburn will consider them. We encourage interested parties to be there.