Arizona closes the spigot for Saudi cows

By Jennifer Yachnin | 03/08/2024 01:35 PM EST

Fondomonte, a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company, has stopped pumping Arizona groundwater as its state leases expire.

Alfalfa grows on a field at Tom Brundy's farm as he walks in the background Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, near Calexico, Calif. Brundy, an alfalfa grower in California's Imperial Valley, thinks farmers reliant on the shrinking Colorado River can do more to save water and use it more efficiently. But one practice that's off-limits for Brundy is fallowing — leaving fields unplanted to spare the water that would otherwise irrigate crops. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Alfalfa is a water-intensive crop, which is turned into hay. Gregory Bull/AP

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego said Friday he would continue to push for a new 300 percent excise tax on water-intensive crops grown in drought-stricken regions, even as state officials announced a subsidiary of Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy company has stopped pumping Arizona groundwater.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) announced Thursday that Fondomonte, which grows alfalfa for export to the Middle East, has ceased tapping an aquifer designated as a future water source for Phoenix and its suburbs to irrigate farmland it leased from the state.

“Today is the start of a new chapter for Arizona’s water future,” Hobbs said in a statement. “I’m not afraid to hold people accountable, maximize value for the state land trust, and protect Arizona’s water security.”


Hobbs announced in October that the state would not renew three leases held by Fondomonte and would terminate a fourth based on technical violations in a bid to stop the company from pumping “unchecked amounts of groundwater” to grow feed for Saudi Arabian cows.