She said fields have appeared in the desert to the east and north of their home during the past three or four years. It wouldn't take much to have a big impact — if farmers could boost water efficiency by just 4 percent, that would increase the amount of water for cities and businesses by 50 percent. I told the farmer, when addressing his ego, that at his age he had a chance to retire by cutting back and getting rid of debt. “They look at it as, you know, how come we're not doing anything here to prevent the foreign companies that are coming in here and utilizing our water shipping their products back to foreign countries.”. The huts are arranged in rows that are longer than football fields. But that won’t stop the pumping of the aquifer. 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. Grass strips alongside streams, like this one in the Lac qui Parle River watershed of Minnesota, can help to reduce fertilizer runoff from fields. The state of Minnesota is taking the lead in establishing water rules: Starting this fall, the state's farmers will be required to maintain a strip of grass, an average of 50 feet wide, along many of the state's streams. Through a company called Red Lake Ventures, the company owns 16,000 acres, though it is now farming only a fraction of that. In today’s economy, being able to do things efficiently is as important as ever. In February, the firm said in an SEC filing that it had raised $404 million so far. Grass strips alongside streams, like this one in the Lac qui Parle River watershed of Minnesota, can help to reduce fertilizer runoff from fields. Access to the farm is strictly limited, with visitors required to go through security. It owns and leases enough land to cultivate as much as 44,000 tons of hay per year. The company is the fifth largest employer in La Paz County, Rose said, and 102 of its employees live in company housing. Michael Timony, a partner in Integrated Ag, said the company has invested $90 million in farmland and irrigation improvements in Arizona. They can send the water from underground drainage pipes into wetlands rather than straight into streams. Many farm groups say they are working hard to reduce pollution caused by runoff from farms. Some grow nuts. He'd start with those grassy buffer strips along streams. The company also runs three hay pressing facilities in Arizona, California and Washington. The company has at least 81 wells, and 34 of those are deeper than 1,000 feet. “Anybody can come out here and literally rape the valley of its water. They struggled to make money and eventually left. Rhodes declined to comment when reached by phone. It is one step but much more progress is needed. And there's no law making it mandatory. Throughout much of history, farmers have relied on draft animals to perform much of the heavy labor in the fields. The negatives are it can contain potentially toxic elements (PTEs) which are a risk to human, plant and animal health. 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. With more than 37,000 acres in the Willcox area, Riverview LLP, a Minnesota dairy, may be the largest corporate farmer in the state and the farm with the most wells. “They come in with a big idea and sell to their investors, the investors put money in it, then they lose everything and they move on,” she said. MN Pollution Control Agency/Flickr That's by law. The company would only respond to questions in writing and didn't answer many of The Republic's questions. “The threat is constantly going to be there,” Watson said. They can send the water from underground drainage pipes into wetlands rather than straight into streams. Now she sees some of the alfalfa farms struggling. Mary Goodman lives to the southwest of Al Dahra’s fields in Wenden that are rented from IFC. Since they are located closer to local restaurants and supermarkets, urban farmers can supply fresh produce faster and easier. There are things that can be done to help farmers reduce water use. Crop … The last time Regina Cobb traveled east of the Kingman airport toward the Peacock Mountains, the area was mostly unspoiled desert where cattle grazed on the sparse Mojave Desert vegetation.Â. Well monitoring data is limited by voluntary participation and infrequent readings. “It boggles the mind how many trees are out here.”. "The company is fully committed to Arizona and plans to remain here for the long-term. Modules can provide farmers the ability to grow shade-tolerant crops and to diversify crop selection, while also extending growing seasons and reducing water requirements. Before the farms came in, Mohave County had virtually no large-scale agriculture. The Clean Water Act, which has cleaned up pollution from factories over the past 40 years, specifically exempts what it calls "normal farming practices" like plowing or maintaining drainage ditches. Don Parrish, senior director of congressional relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation, says the rule's definition is much too broad. How much you can produce within a given amount of land is essentially how efficient you are as a farmer. Surface Water 4. “If they pump them all, it's whoever has the biggest straw is going to get the last drop, I guess.”. In 2015, Agri Investor reported that the company had a pipeline of about $200 million of investments and was planning to create a new $250 million fund to invest in distressed real estate in Arizona and Nevada. Statewide, average water use is roughly 50% environmental, 40% agricultural, and 10% urban, although the percentage of water use by sector varies dramatically across regions and between wet and dry years. And so I don't have the ability to project out what might happen 50, 100 years from now.". Almonds and alfalfa (cattle feed) use … 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. “This is a major, major deal for this county," said Claire Miller, who lives near several farms. “Some of the larger farmers want pusher-axle trucks so they can haul as much weight as possible,” he said. Across the Midwest, he says, nitrate-filled water from farm fields is making drinking water less safe. Al Dahra sells hay in the U.S. and exports to countries across Asia and the Middle East. “There’s no way we have enough water to be able to handle that,” Cobb said. "The bottom line was just, sorry, we don't have jurisdiction to help you," Babbitt said. The pistachio trees will eventually extend to the base of the Peacock Mountains. Yet the people responsible for that pollution, America's farmers, are fighting any hint of regulation to prevent it. More than 90 of these wells are drilled to depths of more than 1,000 feet. And there's no law making it mandatory. Rose said the company has spent $152 million in Arizona and employs 178 people. Farms from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates doing just that have angered residents in the La Paz County communities of Vicksburg, Salome and Wenden. Top 10 Common Law Drainage Problems Between Rural Neighbours In recent years, farmers have fought any hint of stricter regulation. Integrated Ag was created in 2012 and is headquartered in Scottsdale. Now let’s see the drill in action… And the wells drilled could always be used by the next owner. Farmers can take simple steps to reduce the problems dramatically. “They are just going to suck it dry and then be gone.”. Almarai’s subsidiary, Fondomonte, owns much of the land east of Vicksburg Road to the mountains separating Vicksburg from Salome. Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor who signed the landmark groundwater management act in 1980, called the state's letter to Mohave County rejecting the INA "mumbo jumbo.". Its representative took Republic reporters and photographers on tours of the property and provided information about the farm’s water use for a legislative study on the Mohave County basins. Farmers must be especially intuitive when rainfall levels do not meet the desired or necessary quota for a particular season. 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. But the groundwater the company pumped out is gone and won’t be coming back. Starting a landscaping business can be expensive, but farmers who want to opt for a greener path … Now a member of the Iowa Legislature — and full-time farmer — has introduced a bill that would abolish the Des Moines Water Works. It produces alfalfa, Sudan grass, and other types of hay on about 30,000 acres in the U.S., including farmlands in Arizona as well as California’s Palo Verde and Imperial valleys. Nearby residents are calling for the state to stop issuing well permits because their wells are going dry. Mark Skousen, who runs a second-generation family farm in Hyder, is concerned about the surge of well-drilling since Integrated Ag and IFC arrived in the valley. PTEs include elements such as zinc, cadmium, mercury, chro… But Al Dahra said its Hualapai Valley Farm no longer grows alfalfa. “In the 40 years we’ve been out here there’s been a cycle of that.”, Al Dahra ACX is part of Al Dahra Holding, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, and the company says it is “the No. Water troughs with low usage need to be flushed out periodically as evaporation will lead to a … 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. 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. IFC declined to comment, citing a policy of not disclosing non-public information. They also have the capacity to pump water to considerable heights. The way environmentalist Craig Cox sees it, streams and rivers across much of the country are suffering from the side effects of growing our food. Once, it farmed thousands of acres of alfalfa and other crops by using towering center-pivot irrigation systems that created circular green islands in the brown desert on the way out to Red Lake. 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. For instance, farm groups campaigned against the Clean Water Rule, issued by the Obama administration. 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.". How is this possible? It defines what streams or wetlands are considered waters of the U.S., and thus covered by the Clean Water Act. “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. The bill would replace the water works with a regional water authority, which might drop the lawsuit. After coming together in December 2018, the group bought nearly 7,500 acres east of the Kingman Airport. At the peak, Rhodes owned about 34,000 acres and had shocked the community into creating plans to try to conserve its water. It’s not only the corporate farms that are profiting from Arizona’s underground water. 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. Records show the company has 420 wells. 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. It can be caused by not receiving rain or snow over a period of time. Riverview offered to contribute money toward a new water system being proposed for the residents close to its farm, Wulf said. It is the soil that absorbs, transmits and holds the water for crops to use and there is much a farmer can do to manipulate the nature of soil, and is especially helpful if the soil quality is compromised. The rush to drill has also brought in investment firms that prepare the land for farming, drill wells and either rent out the land or sell it. Skousen estimated more than 30 wells have been drilled recently, adding, “nothing is protecting our water.”, “I think if they turned all those 30 wells on, our water table would drop, and our water would be expensive, and we would have less water. Rob O'Dell and Ian James, The Republic |, Bruce Babbitt, the former Arizona governor, Your California Privacy Rights/Privacy Policy. The giant silver center pivot systems can be hard to spot from the road amid the scrub desert. It takes about 26 gallons of water to produce one ear of corn while it takes about 2000-2500 gallons of water … Many farmers also need water to engage in the cultivation of livestock and other animals. “We don’t have the rules in place to prevent that from happening.”. All have at least one thing in common: They take as much water as they want, with no limits. In spite of an ongoing drought and scorching temperatures, Western farmers continue to produce food, while also cutting their water use. It also includes plantations, ranches, ranges, and orchards and groves. It is impossible to know how much water large farms are taking. The big trucks vary in what kind of mileage they get because most farm trucks are pulling heavy loads. With tens of thousands of cattle and the company insisting on growing all of the food on its land, "you are talking a lot of water,” she said. Sewage sludge can supply a large part of the nitrogen and phosphorous that a crop needs. Use It or Lose It Laws Worsen Western U.S. Water Woes. Environmental coverage on and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Peacock was more open than other farms in sharing information. The operation was set up quickly. "This is clearly aimed at chilling our litigation and sending a message to others that no one dare speak against industrial agriculture in this state," he says. 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. SE, Ste. 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. 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. “The term I heard a lot of years ago was virtual water,” said Marvin Glotfelty, a groundwater expert and consultant. 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. 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. Its deepest well is nearly 2,500 feet deep. Livestock. hide caption. Last week, President Trump ordered a formal review of the Clean Water Rule, and his remarks made clear where he stood. Natural Watercourses 3. “These aren’t local farmers. "We were taking an already approved project that had failed and we're using the water for ag purposes now," Tackett-Hicks said. Farmers New World Life is not licensed and does not solicit or sell in the state of New York. Many landowners don't know that they need a legal water right to use surface water and groundwater for irrigation. Agriculture easily qualifies, even if the crops are shipped out of state for profit. 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. Cobb has been trying to pass water legislation for five years. 1. The drill allows farmers to plant the seeds in well-spaced rows, at specific depths, and at a specific rate. The water wars have begun. As a former business owner, Miller said she can see both sides of the issue. "All of a sudden, farmers go from farming fields and land that they have always farmed, to farming in 'waters of the U.S.,' " he says. If the property value appreciates, both parties can make even more, he said. So it’s just scary. A state study found that in 2016, that deficit had increased to 37,600 acre-feet — enough water to supply about 113,000 average single-family households in Phoenix for a year. Even though the water runs through your property, it doesn’t belong to you; it belongs to everyone in Oregon. Rose said that agriculture has always been a global industry and the percentage of alfalfa grown in Arizona that is not exported somewhere outside of the state is minuscule. Cotton is the crop of choice as it gives growers the best return per megalitre of water. “We must look at ways to make sure the expansion of agriculture is not going to be so fast it just depletes our aquifers.”.

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