Rep. Gallego introduces bill to rein in foreign farms

Federal lawmakers are proposing to make it more expensive for overseas companies to grow crops using Arizona land and water.
Published: Aug. 29, 2023 at 6:36 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Western Arizona has at least two large-scale farming operations that grow alfalfa and send the crop overseas to feed cattle back in the Middle East. Critics say the water-intensive crop has no place in the arid desert, and these foreign farm operations are draining one of Arizona’s scarce resources. Those complaints made it to Capitol Hill.

“We have a Saudi Arabian-owned company that is able to suck as much water as it wants possible out of our aquifer,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat who represents central and south Phoenix in Congress.

Gallego reintroduced a bill on Monday that would impose a new tax on the sale and export of any water-intensive crop by foreign companies or governments that are grown in areas experiencing prolonged drought.

“You’re not going to solve our water problems with one bill. I think it’s important that we work comprehensively at the state level, with federal government also, to pass a lot of laws that we need to make sure that Arizona has the water it needs for the next 100 years,” said Gallego.

The Saudi Arabian company Gallego refers to is Fondomonte, which farms in the Butler Valley, about 90 minutes west of Phoenix. You can read our report about that operation here.

Fondomonte declined to comment for this story. According to Gallego’s office, the farm uses enough water each year to satisfy the needs of more than 50 thousand homes.

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