Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs Cancels Saudi Arabia’s Lease of State Land

Ends unlimited water usage for alfalfa farms

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs’ administration on Monday announced two steps to stop a controversial Saudi Arabian company from using groundwater beneath state land in western Arizona to grow and export alfalfa that feeds the kingdom’s dairy cows.

Arizona State Land Department had canceled one of its leases to Fondomonte Arizona, and would not renew three others that are set to expire in February.

As climate change dries out the west, the Saudi-owned company, Fondomonte Arizona, was facing bipartisan criticism for its farming of 3,500 acres of state land in Butler Valley, west of Phoenix.

Alarms had been raised since its arrival in 2015 under then-Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, as the Saudi company was allowed to pump groundwater unchecked and unpaid for.

While leases of state land carry penalties for early termination, the Governor’s Office said the first Fondomonte lease was canceled because the company was in default on “numerous items,” including failing to properly store fuel and diesel exhaust fluid. Fondomonte was given notice of those issues in November 2016, and nearly seven years later, a mid-August inspection showed the company had not fixed those problems, according to Hobbs’ office.

AZ Central

Meidas Touch, WaPo