Imperial Valley Agriculture

Imperial County Agriculture

  • In 2015, Imperial County farmers produced 1,799,186 tons of hay, including alfalfa, Bermuda grass, Sudan grass and klein grass hays, making the region a vital producer of food for the state’s vast dairy industry. Dairy is the number one agricultural commodity in California, with 20% of the nation’s dairy production. 

  • Imperial Valley is one of California’s top five producers of spinach, potatoes, cauliflower, sweet corn, broccoli and onions.

  • Imperial County is California’s number two producer of aquaculture, and is home to one of the largest catfish farms west of the Mississippi.

  • Imperial County Farm Bureau is has been an integral part of Imperial Valley’s rich agricultural landscape for nearly 95 years.

  • Imperial County is among the nation’s top sheep and lamb producing counties. Approximately 150,000 sheep pass through the county each year. In the 1950s and again in the 1990s, close to 350,000 sheep passed through the Valley annually.


Economic Impact

  • California produces about 13% of the nation’s total cash receipts from agriculture, but only receives about 4% of direct government payouts to agriculture. (Note: This figure does fluctuate some from year to year.)

  • Imperial Valley agriculture production in 2011 generated an estimated $1,175,000,000 in personal income for California families, and an estimated $5.3 BILLION in total economic impact.


Feeding the World

  • Americans are spending nearly twice as much on meals away from home than in 1970. Yet the total percent of income that is spent feeding our families has continued to decline. Americans spend about 10 percent of our income on food today, compared with about 14 percent in 1970 and about 23 percent in 1947. In comparison, Americans spend, on average, 35% of our income on taxes.

  • With the increasing availability of affordable food produced by farmers and ranchers in the U.S., Americans are consuming more fruits and vegetables, more lower-fat milk, and leaner meatthan we did 30 years ago.

  • On average, Imperial Valley farmers can feed a nutritious snack or side dish to about 350,000 people from one acre of carrots. In 2011, enough carrots were grown in Imperial Valley to serve a 3-ounce serving to 2/3 of the Earth’s population!

  • Imperial County is home to several dairies. The average dairy cow in the United States produces about 16,000 glasses of milk per year. It takes about 4 pounds of hay to produce one gallon of milk, and about 6-1/2 pounds of hay to produce one gallon of ice cream.

  • If you ate a serving of pasta at breakfast, lunch and dinner for 20 years, you still wouldn't eat all the pasta that's produced from one acre of Imperial Valley Desert Durum wheat. In 2011, enough wheat was grown in Imperial Valley to produce 2.8 BILLION 2-ounce servings of pasta.

  • It is estimated that more than 2/3 of the vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months are grown here in the Imperial Valley.

  • In 2011, Imperial County produced enough lettuce (including head lettuce, leaf lettuce, salad products and spring mix) to serve 4-ounce dinner salads to 4,715,839,160 people!

  • Each year, bees pollinate nearly 100 different types of crops in the United States worth an estimated $10 billion. Insect pollinators make possible one-third of the world’s diet.



  • Imperial County agriculture uses an average of 5.6 acre-feet of water per acre per year. One acre-foot of water can supply the domestic needs (for dishwashing, laundry, showers, toilets, etc.) of two families of four for one year. Those eight people indirectly consume an average of 8 acre-feet of water per year through the food they eat. On average, it takes more than 800 gallons of water to grow the food you consume in ONE DAY. (Click here for a breakdown on this figure.)

  • With every acre-foot of water that arrives in the Valley, one ton of salt is carried into the area. Using subsurface tile drainage systems, farmers are able to keep that salt from remaining in the soil, ensuring that our land remains highly productive. It would take 52,000 trucks to carry all the salt that is deposited into the Salton Sea every year.


Agricultural Variety

  • Local farmers produce more than 100 different commodities, including bamboo, flax, corn, artichokes, fish, goats, honey, cilantro, water lilies and more.

  • Imperial Valley's climate, and the ability to apply water precisely according to each crop's needs make it perfectly suited to growing a tremendous variety of crops. Over the years, hundreds of different types of commodities have been grown in Imperial Valley. In the 1910s, we were home to the largest herd of ostriches in the United States. Since then, peaches, almonds, strawberries, popcorn, flowers, peanuts, aloe vera, jojoba, rhubard, peppers and many, many more have grown here at some point.

  • Agriculture is about more than just food and clothing. Many products we use in our everyday lives come from plant and animal by-products produced by America’s farmers and ranchers. For instance, many types of filters are created with cotton; hypo-allergenic latex gloves are produced from the guayule plant; many adhesives are created using proteins from milk, livestock by-products or soybeans; and even inks are made from soybean products.


Environmental Stewardship

  • The lush fields of Imperial County provide habitat to hundreds of thousands of birds every year. Of the 800 or so bird species found in the United States, over 400 species have been spotted in the Imperial Valley.

  • Over 70% of the state’s burrowing owls reside in Imperial County. There are more owls per square mile here than anywhere else in the United States, and possibly the world.

  • The Imperial County TMDL program, administered by Imperial County Farm Bureau, has been recognized nationwide for its success in reducing the amount of silt and minerals that enter our water drainage systems. Simple solutions such as wider drainage channels or wheat strips planted in drainage channels help inhibit the flow of silt and minerals while allowing water to pass through.