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Saudi Arabia Is Snapping Up US Farmland

Farmers worry about 'exporting water'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2016 4:59 AM CST
Saudi Arabia Is Snapping Up US Farmland
In this Nov. 13, 2015, photo, Bart Fisher, farmer and president of the Palo Verde Irrigation District, looks at the Colorado River while pausing for photos in Blythe, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(Newser) – In Southwestern states, including Arizona and California, the Saudis are making hay while the sun shines, and local farmers aren't happy about it. Last week, a Saudi company bought 1,790 acres of farmland in Blythe, Calif., the Saudi Gazette reports, adding to the amount of farmland bought by Saudi investors to grow alfalfa hay on and save water in their homeland. But the Southwest has drought problems of its own, and some farmers say exporting the hay to Saudi Arabia, where it's fed to dairy herds, is "exporting water" from an area that needs all it can get after years of drought, CNBC reports.

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"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 tells CNBC. Saudi food giant Almarai bought 10,000 acres of farmland in the country for $48 million in 2014. "We're letting them come over here and use up our resources," Irwin says. "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." CNBC notes that despite drought-related restrictions on water use, the Saudis have been able to buy in areas where there are few restrictions on groundwater consumption. (The Saudis may not be able to afford as much farmland now that oil prices have fallen to their lowest level since 2003.)

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