Arizona officials enraged over farmland purchases by Saudi Arabia to grow hay

Jan 22, 2016, 10:00 AM

(AP Photo/John Locher)...

(AP Photo/John Locher)

(AP Photo/John Locher)

PHOENIX — In a recent trend, Saudi Arabia has been purchasing farmland in Arizona and California in order to grow and export quality alfalfa hay, a move that has several Arizona officials up in arms over.

According to CNBC, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries have been purchasing land in parts of the drought-stricken Southwest, including Arizona and California.

On Sunday, Saudi-based Fondomonte California announced it bought 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, California, for $32 million.

According to state documents, at least 23 water wells capable of pumping more than 100,000 gallons a day are on the lands owned by Saudi-based Fondomonte Arizona.

Michelle Moreno, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said companies can use as much water as needed.

“You can use as much water as you’d like, as long as it’s put to a beneficial use, and you’re not required to report your water use,” she said in an interview with CNBC.

Keith Murfield, CEO of the Tempe-based dairy cooperative United Dairymen of Arizona, said Saudi Arabia’s growth of hay is the equivalent to exporting water overseas.

“They have decided that it’s better to bring feed in rather than to empty their water reserves,” he said in an interview with CNBC. “This will continue unless there’s regulations put on it.”

The county grows alfalfa hay in Arizona and California to ship back to its own dairy herds and to save their own water reserves, according to the article.

Saudi Arabia’s latest purchase in Arizona involved 10,000 acres of farmland near Vicksburg, Arizona, for $48 million nearly two years ago. The purchase was made by Saudi food giant Almarai.

La Paz County Board of Supervisors Chairman Holly Irwin said the states should not allow the country to use precious resources for free.

“We’re not getting oil for free, so why are we giving our water away for free?” she said in an interview with CNBC. “We’re letting them come over here and use up our resources. 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.”

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(KTAR News/Peter Samore)...

Casa Grande man sentenced for smuggling meth through San Luis Port of Entry

A man from Casa Grande was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempting to smuggle more than 30 pounds of meth through the San Luis Port of Entry.

1 hour ago

Emma Stone receives a 5-timers robe from SNL veterans Tina Fey and Candice Bergen. (YouTube screens...

Arizona-native Emma Stone hosts SNL for 5th time, joining exclusive club

Arizona native Emma Stone was joined by Tina Fey and Candice Bergen who welcomed her to the illustrious five-timers club for hosting Saturday Night Live.

3 hours ago

Fountain Hills native Nicholas Hambruch was announced as lead for the new "Shrek the Musical" comin...

David Veenstra

Valley native cast as lead of new touring version of ‘Shrek’ musical

An all-new version of "Shrek the Musical" with Fountain Hills native Nicholas Hambruch starring as Shrek is coming to Phoenix in March.

6 hours ago

Rendering of Verrado Marketplace, which will total 500,000 square feet with a host of retailers, re...

Audrey Jensen/Phoenix Business Journal

Target among major tenants announced for Verrado Marketplace in Buckeye

Target, Safeway and a Harkins BackLot entertainment complex will be the anchor tenants for the planned Verrado Marketplace in Buckeye.

7 hours ago

(AP File Photo)...

Northbound lanes on Interstate 17 near Black Canyon City reopen after crash

A crash closed the northbound lanes of Interstate 17 near Black Canyon City. ADOT advised motorists to seek an alternate route.

18 hours ago

mugshot of Street after he turned himself in at the Casa Grande facility and image of teenage Haile...

2 more people arrested in connection to Casa Grande teen’s death

Two more people, both juveniles, have been arrested in connection with the shooting death of a teenage girl on Nov. 26. 

20 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]

Follow @KTAR923...

West Hunsaker at Morris Hall supports Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona

KTAR's Community Spotlight this month focuses on Morris Hall and its commitment to supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Arizona.



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.

Arizona officials enraged over farmland purchases by Saudi Arabia to grow hay