Arizona’s New AG Taking a Stand Against Saudis Buying Up The State’s Land

Arizona is a wealthy state that’s full of opportunities, but it also has a big problem: it’s short on water. This has led to water rationing in some areas and public awareness about the problem.

Though large corporations, including some foreign buyers, aren’t very concerned about Arizona’s problem: they just want to make money at the state’s expense.

Now, Arizona’s new Attorney General Kris Mayes is looking to block Saudi Arabian companies from continuing to buy up land in Arizona to farm alfalfa, a practice that is continuing to deplete the state’s water resources.

Arizona vs. Saudi Alfalfa Farmers

Arizona’s La Paz county has a major deal with a Saudi farming company called Fondomonte to use local land for growing alfalfa, but Mayes plans to block it.

These sweetheart landgrabs have been going on for a long time now. Mayes wants to put a stop to it and stand up for the people.

Wells are going dry across La Paz county in towns like Salome, drained by decades of drought and by greedy speculators like Fondomonte buying up massive parcels of land to grow alfalfa.

Fondomonte is owned by Almarai, which is the biggest dairy company in the Middle East. They raise tons of alfalfa in Arizona, harvest it, pack it and then ship it all the way back home where they use it for food for the herds of milk cows.

Illegal in Saudi Arabia

The reason Almarai grows its cow food all the way in Arizona is that it’s illegal back home.

You aren’t permitted to grow alfalfa crops in Saudi Arabia, due to the extremely high water usage they require, so companies like Fondomonte simply come to use American land.

Alfalfa uses an extremely high amount of water and was prohibited starting five years ago in Saudi Arabia due to the water intensity. Now, large companies like Fondomonte just grow it in other countries around the world and ship it back.

Its La Paz property is only costing it $100,000 per year, which is peanuts for the company, and it can use as much groundwater as they want. Now, wells are running dry and Arizonans don’t have enough water, but you can’t really blame anything but the overly permissive water laws.

As the Colorado River continues to experience problems, Arizona hasn’t done enough to cut back on water usage and make more regulations to deal with the crisis.

Places like La Paz, however, don’t even rely on canal tributaries and are just well water.

Mayes Makes a Promise

Mays says she will roll back Fondomonte’s lease within half a year in her position as attorney general, calling it “egregious.” She also wants the dairy giant to pay back the value of the massive amounts of water it’s used.

There’s no doubt Arizona needs to start pushing back against foreign exploitation of its water resources. Sometimes enough is enough.

This article appeared in StatesmanPost and has been published here with permission.