Companies use Arizona’s groundwater to grow alfalfa, pistachios, pecans or other crops and then export some of the products to other states or countries. Fondomonte has spent $50 million to upgrade the irrigation infrastructure and technology to significantly reduce the water usage on the farm, Rose said, adding the company wants to be in Arizona forever and be "one of the most efficient farming operations possible.". Many insurance companies use the P P C rating and the distance your home is from the nearest legally responding fire department to determine whether they will insure your home and how much to charge. But the water pumped by commercial farms has helped dry up wells owned by residents, who worry for their future. But she said she is scared by the sheer amount of water being pumped out. The pivots look as out of place as the green alfalfa once did next to the red dirt from the dry saline lake. It is also in line with the Saudi government direction toward conserving local resources.”. IFC announced last year that it was seeking to raise $1.5 billion in capital to buy large farm properties and lease them out to tenants. Some farmers do this; many do not. "It's the biggest water grab in Australia's history," one farmer in the ABC program said. Many landowners don't know that they need a legal water right to use surface water and groundwater for irrigation. ProPublica's “Killing the Colorado” series examines a 139-year-old water law that pushes ranchers to use as much water as they … Two of the biggest such companies are International Farming Corporation, known as IFC, an asset manager based in North Carolina, and Integrated Ag, a private equity fund headquartered in Scottsdale. Farmers New World Life is not licensed and does not solicit or sell in the state of New York. Access to the farm is strictly limited, with visitors required to go through security. Rose said the company has spent $152 million in Arizona and employs 178 people. “It hit just all of sudden, just like less than a year,” Watson said. The round circles of bright green crops created by Riverview's 200 center-pivot irrigation systems fall away from the road as Kansas Settlement slices north and south through the area. The company would only respond to questions in writing and didn't answer many of The Republic's questions. “If you look straight down these rows it goes back as far as the eye can see,” Cobb said. Drought has many causes. I want to sell, that’s it.”. That's what the law says. A federal study showed that in 2011 groundwater pumping in the Hualapai Basin surrounding Kingman exceeded the rate of recharge by 5,600 acre-feet annually. Drought-Tolerant Crops. That’s brought companies from California, Las Vegas, Minnesota, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to rural areas throughout the state seeking to exploit Arizona’s underground resource. [They're] taking their kids to the beach and the beach is closed. Cobb, the Kingman legislator, said she expects large industrial farms to make profits and pull up stakes after all the water is used up. Its deepest well is nearly 2,500 feet deep. Top 10 Common Law Drainage Problems Between Rural Neighbours The invention of the seed drill gave farmers much greater control over depth, spacing, and it allowed them the ability to cover seeds without back-tracking. “I told my husband I want to move. Cobb, a Republican representative from Kingman, said the Peacock Nuts operation is "mining our water." "The company is fully committed to Arizona and plans to remain here for the long-term. But that won’t stop the pumping of the aquifer. Some grow nuts. Follow The Republic environmental reporting team at environment.azcentral.com and @azcenvironment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Grass strips alongside streams, like this one in the Lac qui Parle River watershed of Minnesota, can help to reduce fertilizer runoff from fields. Last week, President Trump ordered a formal review of the Clean Water Rule, and his remarks made clear where he stood. 300 Bellevue, WA 98005 (CA#: 0378-0). Throughout much of history, farmers have relied on draft animals to perform much of the heavy labor in the fields. Driving Stockton Hill Road north out of Kingman, the road drops down to the desert floor. “You almost feel helpless because we can’t get anything passed legislatively,” Cobb said, because legislators are scared regulation in one area will spread to other areas. “You can do that with what you generate as a product of the water,” Glotfelty said. A group of California farmers did the unexpected this year: They beat their water conservation goals. You think you’re set here for life. Yet the people responsible for that pollution, America's farmers, are fighting any hint of regulation to prevent it. “The farms started leveling all the land, and it was very alarming to a huge number of us who were really appalled at the size of these projects.”. hide caption. “Anybody can come out here and literally rape the valley of its water. “It varies between 4.5 and 6 miles per gallon, depending on the load, and whether they have very many hills to climb,” he said. If the property value appreciates, both parties can make even more, he said. Though not all of that land is irrigated, if it were, it would equal nearly 15 percent of the harvested cropland in Arizona, as tallied by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Practices that farmers use on their farms might include no-till, putting fences around streams, planting cover crops, collecting water runoff, and integrating crop and pasture rotations. In today’s economy, being able to do things efficiently is as important as ever. They include private-equity firms, investment funds focused on agriculture, and foreign food companies, mirroring the nationwide trend of big capital driving the ag industry and leading to larger farms. The company is the fifth largest employer in La Paz County, Rose said, and 102 of its employees live in company housing. “There’s no protection for this valley for water,” Goodman said. Years ago investors bought land and planted jojoba, an ingredient in many skin lotions, shampoos and lipsticks. Returning to the area 10 months later, she was shocked that the high desert landscape of creosote and cholla was now a 850-acre pistachio farm where more than 125,000 saplings had been planted. Bill Stowe isn't buying Klein's explanation. And there's no law making it mandatory. Kathleen Tackett-Hicks, spokeswoman for the group, said Peacock Nuts plans to farm a maximum of 4,500 acres. But well drilling records show these farms own more than 700 wells and collectively have drilled more than 200 wells deeper than 1,000 feet, allowing them to draw down aquifers more quickly and dry up shallower wells. In recent years, farmers have fought any hint of stricter regulation. The company turns inefficient flood-irrigated farmland into highly productive farmland with highly efficient irrigation systems that use 20 percent to 50 percent less water, he said. Farmers must be especially intuitive when rainfall levels do not meet the desired or necessary quota for a particular season. Large open-sided metal structures house thousands of stacks of hay and there are more structures than one can count. “They know there’s enough water.”. Riverview offered to contribute money toward a new water system being proposed for the residents close to its farm, Wulf said. Rhodes, who once hoped to build tens of thousands of new homes in parts of Mohave County, began blading desert, drilling wells and installing center pivots to farm hay and other crops for export. “It boggles the mind how many trees are out here.”. They say that cooperative, voluntary programs will achieve more than regulation. Started in 2014 with the purchase of the Faria Dairy on Kansas Settlement Road south of Willcox, it is building a huge expansion to the southeast called Turkey Creek Dairy. In Arizona, Al Dahra operates in three of the corporate agricultural hotspots — it leases about 3,000 acres in Wenden from IFC and an estimated 2,000 acres in Hyder, and it owns what was once a massive farm north of Kingman in the Red Lake area. That's by law. The company also owns land in Pinal County. Tom Buschatzke, director of the state's Department of Water Resources, said the law prevents him from acting. "New crops that are less water-intensive and higher value such as hemp and baby potatoes are being produced," the company said in an emailed statement. "We chose this area because of its great growing conditions and abundant sustainable water.". Growing crops that are appropriate to the region’s climate is another way … "The Hyder area can support row crops, produce and permanent crops," he said. “We don’t have the rules in place to prevent that from happening.”. She said concerns about water use are overblown because the property had already been approved by Mohave County for a housing project and was given a 100-year assured water supply of 13,000 acre-feet annually by the state. These are farmers from outside our area coming in and utilizing our resources,” Cobb said. “The term I heard a lot of years ago was virtual water,” said Marvin Glotfelty, a groundwater expert and consultant. They use different strategies to protect themselves financially from unpredictable changes in the markets. A farm includes livestock, dairy, poultry, fish, fruit, and truck farms. There are things that can be done to help farmers reduce water use. There's stories about people getting sick.". They possess the right to use it. Al Dahra said it has about 170 employees in Arizona. Life insurance issued by Farmers New World Life Insurance Company, a Washington domestic company: 3120 139 th Ave. Since they are located closer to local restaurants and supermarkets, urban farmers can supply fresh produce faster and easier. Some of the water used by each of these sectors returns to rivers and groundwater basins where it can be used again. Peacock Nuts is one of seven corporate farms identified by The Arizona Republic as major agricultural groundwater users in Arizona. Fondomonte would only respond to questions in writing, but its representative, Jordan Rose, said the company owns 3,600 acres in Vicksburg and leases another 6,200. Still, despite these benefits, farmers use CIMIS data on only 5 percent of irrigated cropland in California, the U.S.’s leading agricultural state. There’s no cost for the groundwater other than the cost of drilling the well and the electricity to bring the water to the surface. The same is true for groundwater in aquifers deep in the soil. She had driven up the dusty rural road to store a bighorn sheep she killed on a hunt. Peacock was more open than other farms in sharing information. "Has sort of a nice name, but everything else is bad.". "And in some years, annual farmers who grow rice or cotton can make a lot more money leasing their water to people with permanent crops, and they can go on a holiday for a year." Livestock. Almonds and alfalfa (cattle feed) use … Miles said she appreciated that Peacock is trying to use conservation measures like drip irrigation, but she said she’s still concerned that the expansion of agriculture in Kingman could deplete water the town relies on. Surface Water 4. So it’s just scary. She said this is why she is “obsessed” with doing something about out-of-state agribusiness using up Arizona’s precious resources to profit. Sludge is also an effective soil conditioner, as it is a good source of organic matter. She’s seen new industrial wells appear off of Highway 60, along with two large irrigation ponds, which they’ve heard can hold 25 million gallons each. His arrival in 2012 triggered Mohave County’s concerns about its dwindling groundwater. ", Peggy Judd, a Cochise County supervisor, is a huge proponent of farming in the Willcox area, particularly the Riverview dairy. “This is a major, major deal for this county," said Claire Miller, who lives near several farms. Now she sees some of the alfalfa farms struggling. There will always be somebody who will talk about the way you … Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Hay prices were high when Rhodes started his project but five years later the prices had dropped. A release by the Arab News added the kicker: “This transaction forms part of Almarai’s continuous effort to supply the highest quality alfalfa hay from outside the Kingdom to support its dairy business. The state doesn't require meters on wells in rural Arizona, so nobody is tracking how many gallons are pumped out. Now let’s see the drill in action… The operation was set up quickly. And there's no law making it mandatory. Total coliform, nitrate testing most likely. It is one step but much more progress is needed. Cobb wants to change that and have the state approve an emergency “irrigation non expansion” area for Kingman to limit any new agricultural wells from being drilled. The last time Regina Cobb traveled east of the Kingman airport towardÂ the Peacock Mountains, the area was mostly unspoiled desert where cattle grazed on the sparse Mojave Desert vegetation.Â. The state Department of Water Resources has already rejected this, effectively saying pumping hasn't drained enough water out of the aquifer to meet the standards to create a new INA. “Fondomonte being a foreign company that is here taking our water, that doesn't rub well … with the residents that are out here,” said Holly Irwin, the La Paz County supervisor who represents the area. All have at least one thing in common: They take as much water as they want, with no limits. He said the company has reduced water usage by 25 percent since it purchased the land. The Arizona Republic identified major agricultural water users through interviews with residents, growers and public officials across the state, through property records and well data. Farmers can take simple steps to reduce the problems dramatically. They struggled to make money and eventually left. Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the rule's definition is much too broad. Some grow hay. MN Pollution Control Agency/Flickr Starting a landscaping business can be expensive, but farmers who want to opt for a greener path … It owns an estimated 9,200 acres in both Yuma and Maricopa counties around Hyder, one of Arizona’s new frontiers for industrial farming operations. "The bottom line was just, sorry, we don't have jurisdiction to help you," Babbitt said. “It’s still water extraction for farming,” she said. Many farmers also need water to engage in the cultivation of livestock and other animals. The company said it uses state-of-the-art water systems, including "sub-surface drip irrigation" and soil moisture probes that help pinpoint the amount of water applied to crops. Wulf declined to say how much water is used annually. Some can draw water from nearly half a mile below ground. By analyzing more than 250,000 well-drilling records, more than 30,000 well-depth records and property records in 10 Arizona counties, The Republic compiled a list of large out-of-state companies that could be — or have been — some of the largest water takers in the state. Details of the typical nutrient content can be found in AHDB’s RB209 guide [PDF]. Look hard and you can see the pivots marooned in the desert like a shipwreck. “The threat is constantly going to be there,” Watson said. ", On its website, the company says it “continues to invest in growing its farming lands portfolio.”. The company also runs three hay pressing facilities in Arizona, California and Washington. 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