Saudi Arabia buying up farmland in US Southwest

Source:  CNBC

by |

Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries are scooping up farmland in drought-afflicted regions of the U.S. Southwest, and that has some people in California and Arizona seeing red.

Harvesting alfalfa crop

Harvesting alfalfa crop     Andy Sacks | Getty Images

Saudi Arabia grows alfalfa hay in both states for shipment back to its domestic dairy herds. In another real-life example of the world’s interconnected economy, the Saudis increasingly look to produce animal feed overseas in order to save water in their own territory, most of which is desert.

Privately held Fondomonte California on Sunday announced that it bought 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, California — an agricultural town along the Colorado River — for nearly $32 million. Two years ago, Fondomont’s parent company, Saudi food giant Almarai, purchased another 10,000 acres of farmland about 50 miles away in Vicksburg, Arizona, for around $48 million.

“They will continue to come over here and buy properties where they can grow good-quality alfalfa hay and ship it back to the Middle East. It makes logical sense for them to do that because they’re not going to be able to grow it in Saudi Arabia, especially for milk production.” -Joseph Dutra, President, Westec

But not everyone likes the trend. The alfalfa exports are tantamount to “exporting water,” because in Saudi Arabia, “they have decided that it’s better to bring feed in rather than to empty their water reserves,” said Keith Murfield, CEO of United Dairymen of Arizona, a Tempe-based dairy cooperative whose members also buy alfalfa. “This will continue unless there’s regulations put on it.”

In a statement announcing the California farmland purchase, the Saudi company said the deal “forms part of Almarai’s continuous efforts to improve and secure its supply of the highest quality alfalfa hay from outside the (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) to support its dairy business. It is also in line with the Saudi government direction toward conserving local resources.”

“We’re not getting oil for free, so why are we giving our water away for free?” asked La Paz County Board of Supervisors Chairman Holly Irwin, who represents a rural area in western Arizona where food companies affiliated with the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates have come to farm alfalfa for export.

Added Irwin, “We’re letting them come over here and use up our resources. It’s very frustrating for me, especially when I have residents telling me that their wells are going dry and they have to dig a lot deeper for water. It’s costly for them to drill new wells.”

‘Beneficial use’

However, the issue of land rights comes into play. As the owners of the land, the Saudis appear to be playing by the rules. The area of the Arizona desert where the Saudis bought land is a region with little or no regulation on groundwater use. That’s in contrast to most of the state, 85 percent of which has strict groundwater rules.

Local development and groundwater pumping have contributed to the groundwater table falling since 2010 by more than 50 feet in parts of La Paz County, 130 miles west of Phoenix. State documents show there are at least 23 water wells on the lands controlled by Alamarai’s subsidiary, Fondomonte Arizona. Each of the wells is capable of pumping more than 100,000 gallons daily.

Back in Blythe, the purchase of farmland comes as urban residents of California face state-mandated water cutbacks due to a fourth year of severe drought.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

14 comments on “Saudi Arabia buying up farmland in US Southwest

  1. From FOREST SERVICE EMPLOYEES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS (FSEEE)
    http://www.fseee.org/index.php/ground-truth/investigations
    By Matt Rasmussen

    March 16, 2015 -In September of 2013, a company based in the Arabian Peninsula nation of Oman took over the largest forest-restoration effort in United States history.
    Jason Rosamond, the CEO of Good Earth Power, claimed his company, which before then had operated mainly in Africa, would quickly ramp up operations to thin hundreds of thousands of acres of dangerously overgrown national forest in Arizona at high risk of burning in catastrophic wildfires.

    Good Earth Power is a privately held company. It releases little information about its finances or the various projects it claims to have completed.
    The company’s website states that its “focus is in delivering projects that benefit human society as well as nature, ranging from the provision of clean renewable energy, to sustainable land development and the preservation of wildlife.”
    The website says Good Earth is involved in power generation and other community-development projects, largely in Africa. It gives no details about specific projects, however.

    Good Earth apparently gains financial backing from the Zawawi Group, a conglomerate with ties to the Omani ruling family.

    Like

    • So burn down or lumber out all our forests IN
      CASE their might be a fire? With no forests there will be nothing but a high desert,scratchy scrub brush ,erosion and wildlife will be gone forever. But do these foreign countries care? It’s a great opportunity for them to make billions off our forests..our National Forests at that.
      Also if anyone remembers the massive Wallow fire in Az. The one that burned over a million acres of pristine forests in The beautiful Alpine forests of Az. Burning all the way into New Mexico. A horrible fire that burned up a lot of our wildlife. Dead Bears were found clinging to trees, wolves, owls and much more killed off.
      What I’m getting at is soon after this fire which was allowed to burn for a week before action was taken ..
      , the ground was still smoldering when dozens of private contractors went in to do their “salvaged lumbeting” on this massive area.
      Much of the wood is still good under the scorched bark and there were areas the fire skipped but who’s watching? They cleared it all out. We witnessed truckload after truckload of healthy looking lumber coming out of the area of the massive Wallow fire.
      Salvage lumbering should not be allowed!
      Also… with all these millions of acres of forests burned and lumbered out how can there be an overgrowth of trees in Arizona? there’s always “an overgrowth” if not trees it’s wild horses or burros. There is an overgrowth of self serving opportunista more than ever and they are getting away with this .

      Also this country …ive never heard of any other country selling off their public lands to foreign countries. We are supposed to be a sovereign nation . Somehow that sovereignty has been taken away.
      I have heard that the National Forests the Apache Sitgraves area in the Alpine, white mountain area Az is soon to be the biggset lumbeting operation in the world. And owned by foreign country.at that.
      Thanks for the info.

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  2. In some countries it is forbidden for foreign nationals to buy land. I wonder how much of this country already belongs to Saudi Arabia, China and other fair-weather friends of the US?

    Like

    • Here’s good source NGO I have been reading for a few years—they send out a twice monthly rundown of the transfers of arable land from the countries of origin to ownership by China, India, UAE, etc. Some weeks I can’t bear to read it, the whole thing is so dispiriting. farmlandgrab.org Regarding the above mentioned “Good Earth Power”—-sounds like a lotta “greenwashing” of so-called “branding” that so much of capitalist organizations have become adept with doing.

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  3. Privately held foreign owned or based corporations rarely pay US federal income taxes, meaning they can legally buy land and water and export it for mostly tax-free profit.

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    • Just like the foreign owned slaughter houses, right? Remember? the one in Kaufman paid $5.00 in taxes????????? Seems like there should be some concern somewhere that a foreign country can have a business or buy land – use OUR water – and have profit tax-free!

      Like

  4. What the hell is wrong with the people in this country?? No foreigners should ever be allowed to buy our land!!! And the idiots in our government wonder why we are attacked. This is just what they do. They pretend to integrate in our country, buy our land and property and DEMAND we put up muslin churches. They try and change our traditions and DEMAND to change our Holidays. Watch out!! They sued and our area was forced to allow this to be built. This is bad, bad, bad!! I could tell you a story about one them that would curl your hair!! Foreigners started to buy up land in Hawaii and they were stopped. A cult bought property in Idaho or somewhere out West. They built a cult and soon the community had to contend with them. Now will the foreigners fill law suits and use our own laws to buy up our land or Sue us?? Sellers ought to think twice!! And how about our Wild Horses and Burros?? No sympathy here!!

    Like

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