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Saudi-owned company stops pumping Arizona groundwater on some La Paz County leases

Gov. Katie Hobbs' office announced Thursday that Saudi Arabian-owned Fondomonte has “officially ceased pumping Arizona groundwater in the Butler Valley in western Arizona.”

“As a result of a recent inspection, the state Land Office has determined that as of February 15, 2024, Fondomonte is not irrigating any leased land in the Butler Valley,” a statement from Hobbs' office said. a media release said. “Visual inspection also confirmed that Fondomonte has begun taking steps to vacate the premises.”

However, the Butler Valley Basin leases represent approximately one-third of the Fondo Monte properties in La Paz County identified by AZPM.

Fondomonte, a subsidiary of Saudi dairy giant Almarai, has signed four separate leases in the Butler Valley Basin to grow alfalfa to feed the Gulf kingdom's livestock. In October, the Arizona Department of Lands notified Fondomonte that it would not renew three of its four leases in the Butler Valley Basin. Fondomonte was also notified that its fourth lease would be terminated at the same time.

The Arizona Governor's Office announced that the state Land Department has decided not to renew the company's Butler Valley lease because “excessive amounts of water are being pumped from the land for free.” did.

Fondomonte has appealed the cancellation, but the process is still pending. His last lease ended on February 14th.

Concerns about Fondomonte's holdings in Arizona grew after media reported that Fondomonte was growing alfalfa in Arizona on land for export to Saudi Arabia and as feed for livestock.

Current Arizona regulations allow virtually free groundwater pumping in the state's rural areas.

Countries facing climate change challenges, like Saudi Arabia, are increasingly looking to far-flung places like Arizona for water and land to grow livestock feed and commodities such as wheat for domestic use and export. It looks like this.

Foreign and out-of-state U.S. farms are not prohibited from farming in Arizona or selling their products around the world. U.S. farmers typically export feed crops to countries such as Saudi Arabia and China.

Another company, UAE-owned Al Dahra ACX Global, grows forage crops in California and Arizona, including land in the Butler Valley that it leases from a private company based in North Carolina. are doing. The company is a major hay exporter in North America.

Hobbs took credit for ending Fondomonte's campaign in the valley.

“I'm not afraid to hold people accountable, maximize the value of our national land trusts, and protect Arizona's water security,” she said.

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