In Phoenix, Saudi cows are first-class citizens

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL July 21, 2023
Arizona’s water allowed a Saudi company to pursue industrial-scale farming of thirsty forage crops
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Salt River, Arizona. Photo by Joseph Hughes on Unsplash

The craziest story from heat-seared Phoenix is the way Saudi cows have been first-class citizens for Arizona for way too long, relegating the residents of the state capital to second-class status.

I’ll explain via The Washington Post, which reported the whole thing in minute and excruciating detail.

Excruciating for the state and city officials who made the deal, assuming they feel the heat and shame of what they allowed happen.

Do they?

Who knows.

What we do know is, the following.

The Post said: “For nearly a decade, the state of Arizona has leased this rural terrain (Butler Valley) west of Phoenix to a Saudi-owned company, allowing it to pump all the water it needs to grow the alfalfa hay — a crop it exports to feed the kingdom’s dairy cows. And, for years, the state did not know how much water the company was consuming”.

The company, Fondomonte Arizona, arrived in Arizona’s Butler Valley in 2015, the paper said. It published a memo in which Arizona state planners suggested asking the company to install meters and report its water use.

It didn’t happen, so the state never really obtained accurate information on water drained from the valley, which could have been used to serve booming urban areas such as Phoenix.

The Saudis benefited from the lapse because Arizona’s water allowed them to pursue industrial-scale farming of thirsty forage crops such as alfalfa, which they promptly exported home from the US to feed their cows.

If this sounds off-the-wall, it’s because it is.

Standing in Phoenix just weeks ago, in the intense heat, I remember worrying deeply and truly about how the sprawling metropolitan area known as the Valley of the Sun would manage.

Things didn’t look good. They still don’t.

Also read:

‘The sun glared all day long out of a hard blue sky and an invisible inferno raged’