Water Video Reaction

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One hundred miles west of Phoenix, a Saudi-Arabian owned farming operation grows hay year-round in the desert. It’s an issue examined by Arizona State University students in a documentary called “Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don’t Bloom,” which explores the issue of Saudi-Arabian farming in La Paz County and the reaction of locals and water officials. We’ll hear reaction to that video from Jordon Rose, an attorney representing Fondomonte, the owner of the farm in La Paz County that was the subject of the video. Also, Mark Killian, the director of the Arizona Department of Agriculture, will discuss the importance of agriculture imports and exports to Arizona.

TED: TONIGHT'S EDITION OF ARIZONA SUSTAINABILITY REVISITS THE TOPIC OF GROUNDWATER SUPPLY IN LA PAZ COUNTY. RESIDENTS ARE CONCERNED THAT SOME AGRICULTURE BUSINESSES THAT PROVIDE JOBS MAY ALSO BE DEPLEATING THE GROUNDWATER SUPPLY. THIS STORY WAS HIGHLIGHTED IN A DOCUMENTARY PRODUCED BY A GROUP OF STUDENTS AT ASU'S WALTER CRONKITE SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM. HERE'S A CLIP FROM THAT DOCUMENTARY.
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I HAVE LIVED IN LA PAZ COUNTY FOR PRETTY MUCH 10 YEARS BUT MY FAMILY LIVED HERE SINCE THE EARLY '60S, THERE WAS A LOT OF AGRICULTURE ACTIVITY, A LOT OF FAMILIES DID HAVE JOBS. MY GRANDPARENTS MOVED HERES TO HELP WITH COTTON FARMS AND NOW OTHER CORPORATE FARMING HAS BEEN THE MAJOR CHANGE.

THE LARGEST DAIRY COMPANY IN THE MIDDLE EAST IS BASED IN SAUDI ARABIA, AND THAT'S THE COMPANY WE FOUND IN THE ARIZONA DESERT. IN THE DESERT, YOU HAVE SUNSHINE AND WARM TEMPERATURES NEARLY ALL YEAR LONG. MEANING YOU CAN BE GROWING HAY, PREPPING IT AND SHIPPING IT BACK TO SAUDI ARABIA NEARLY 12 MONTHS OF THE YEAR. THE DOWNSIDE, IT MEANS YOU'RE PUMPING UP WATER FROM THE AQUIFER FOR NEARLY 12 MONTHS OF THE YEAR.

MOST OF LA PAZ COUNTY IS NOT IN A REGULATED AREA. THAT MEANS ANYONE CAN COME IN AND DRILL A WELL OF ANY SIZE AND PUMP AS MUCH AS THEY WANT. WHAT LA PAZ COUNTY WORRIED ABOUT, THEIR GROUNDWATER SUPPLIES WILL BE MINED INTO EXTINCTION. WE'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THE WATER USAGE IN THE AREA, WELLS ARE GOING DRY ALL OVER THE VALLEY AND YET NEW ONES ARE BEING PUT IN. THEY'VE PUT ALFALFA FARMS NEAR US, IT'S KIND OF SCARY.

THERE'S SOME KIND OF BLAME ASSIGNED TO THE LOCAL AGRICULTURAL AND FARMING COMMUNITY AND THOSE ARE FEARS BUT WE'RE NOT SURE THEY'RE WELL GROUNDED BUT, OBVIOUSLY, THERE'S AN ISSUE THAT PEOPLE ARE DEALING WITH, SEEING ISSUES WITH THEIR WELLS THEY PERSONALLY USE, BUT WHETHER OR NOT IT'S UP TO AGRICULTURE OR FARMING BEING THE CULPRIT, I DON'T THINK THAT'S THE CASE.

IT'S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO MANAGE GROUNDWATER WITHOUT SOME SORT OF REGULATION AND WITHOUT THAT, I DON'T SEE A LOT OF HOPE FOR THOSE AREAS BECAUSE THERE'S VERY LITTLE, A LOCAL ENTITY CAN DO TO STOP SOMEONE FROM PUMPING GROUNDWATER WHEN STATE LAW PERMITS IT.

THERE'S A BALANCE THAT NEEDS TO BE STRUCK. I THINK EVERYONE AGREES ON THAT. I THINK THE RESIDENTS OF LA PAZ AGREE THAT FARMING BRINGS JOBS AND BRINGS MONEY INTO THE COUNTY. IT'S A WAY OF LIFE FOR A LOT OF THE PEOPLE THERE. THE QUESTION IS HOW LONG DO THEY WANT THE WATER TO LAST?
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TED: ONE OF THE COMPANIES DISCUSSED IN THE DOCUMENTARY IS A SAUDI ARABIAN-OWNED FARMING OPERATION CALLED FONDAMONTE FARMS. HERE TO TALK ABOUT THAT PARTICULAR BUSINESS AND THE GENERAL IMPACT IS JORDAN ROSE, AN ATTORNEY FROM THE ROSE LAW GROUP, AND MARK KILLIAN, THE DIRECTOR OF THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. WHY DID YOU THINK A RESPONSE TO THE DOCUMENTARY WAS WARRANTED?

JORDAN ROSE: WHEN WE SAW THE DOCUMENTARY, THE MENACING MUSIC, OH, MY GOODNESS, THAT'S STRANGE, YOU CAN ESSENTIALLY SAY THAT ANY FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT IN ARIZONA IS STEALING OUR WATER. ARE THEY STEALING OUR WATER TO SEND SHIPS BACK TO VARIOUS PLACES IN THE WORLD? AND AGRICULTURE AS AN INDUSTRY IS ALL ABOUT PRODUCING CROPS IN ONE AREA OF THE WORLD, AND SENDING THEM SOMEWHERE ELSE. FONDAMONTE BOUGHT THE FARM ABOUT 2 YEARS AGO AND HAS SPENT ABOUT 118 MILLION DOLLARS IN ARIZONA SO FAR. THEY'RE THE FIFTH LARGEST EMPLOYER IN LA PAZ COUNTY, AFTER WAL-MART AND THE CASINO AND THE HOSPITAL. THEY'RE EMPLOYING MOST ARIZONANS AND SOME CALIFORNIANS AND THEY NOT ONLY PRODUCE 50,000 TONS OF ALFALFA ON THEIR FARMS HERE TO EXPORT. BUT ALSO BUY 150,000 TONS FROM 20 NEIGHBORING FARMS. TO SO THERE'S A GREAT ECONOMIC DRIVER IN LA PAZ COUNTY.

TED: AND YET IN THE DOCUMENTARY, WE HEAR CONCERN OVER GROUNDWATER SUPPLIES. ARE THOSE CONCERNS VALID?

MARK KILLIAN: THEY ALWAYS HAVE BEEN. ARIZONA HAS BEEN THE LEADER IN COMING UP WITH GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT. FROM THE VERY TIME THAT FARMERS WHO WERE THE ONES INVOLVED IN BRINGING THE CAP INTO CENTRAL ARIZONA TO THE GROUNDWATER MANAGEMENT ACT OF 1980, THE GROUNDWATER QUALITY ACT OF 1984, THE GROUND WATER BANKING ACT OF THE 1996. ARIZONA WAS ALWAYS ON THE FOREFRONT OF MANAGING ITS WATER SUPPLY. THE PROBLEM I HAVE WITH THE DOCUMENTARY, IT MAKES IT SOUND LIKE IF WE'RE SHIPPING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTS OUT OF ARIZONA, THAT'S SOMETHING THAT IS BAD AND WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND IS THAT ARIZONA AGRICULTURE, IT'S A $17 BILLION INDUSTRY AND EMPLOYS 88,000 PEOPLE. WE'VE ALWAYS SHIPPED OUR PRODUCTS ALL OVER THE WORLD. OUR CITRUS AND COTTON AND ALFALFA. THE DURHAM WHEAT GOES TO ITALY AND OUR MILK AND BEEF SUPPLIES AND THE ANGLE THAT THE PEOPLE TOOK IN THE DOCUMENTARY, THEY WERE TRYING TO CREATE SOMETHING EVIL IN ARIZONA SHIPPING ITS PRODUCTS OUTSIDE OF THE STATE.

TED: DOES THAT EQUATION, THOUGH, CHANGE AS GROUNDWATER BECOMES LESS ABUNDANT? ACCORDING TO THE DOCUMENTARY, ESPECIALLY IN AN IN AREA WHERE THERE'S NO REGULATION ON GROUNDWATER.

MARK KILLIAN: I THINK THE GREAT THING WE HAVE IN ARIZONA, WE HAVE SOME OF THE BEST WATER EXPERTS THERE IS AND THE GOVERNOR APPOINTED A GROUP LOOK -- THAT'S LOOKING AT THIS AND THEY'RE GOING TO COME UP WITH SOLUTIONS SO WE CAN SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. WHAT PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND, AGRICULTURE IS NOT IN THE BUSINESS OF DRYING UP AQUIFER, THEY DEPEND ON THAT WATER. AND SO WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT HAVE BEEN DEVELOPED AT THE UNIVERSITIES, THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES THAT INDUSTRY HAS DEVELOPED SO WE USE LESS WATER IN OUR CROPS, THE GENETIC CLIP MODIFIED CROPS THAT USE LESS WATER AND THE TECHNOLOGIES IN OUR TRACTORS AND THE GPS AND LASER LEVELING OF OUR FIELDS THAT CONTRIBUTES TO USING A HECK OF A LOT LESS WATER THAN WE USED TO BACK IN THE 60S AND THE 50S.

TED: THE ONE COUPLE SITTING ON THE BENCH, THEY'D BEEN THERE FOR A WHILE AND DRILLED A WELL OF A CERTAIN DEPTH, AIN'T WORKING ANYMORE BECAUSE THE GROUNDWATER SUPPLY HAS GONE DOWN LOWER AND THEY'RE GOING TO HAVE TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY TO DIG DEEPER FOR WATER AND THEY DON'T NECESSARILY THINK THAT'S FAIR. DO THEY HAVE A POINT?

JORDAN ROSE: I THINK THIS PARTICULAR COMPANY PURCHASED AN EXISTING ALFALFA FARM A COUPLE YEARS AGO, THEY WERE ALREADY FARMING ALFALFA AND THEY PUT A LOT OF MONEY INTO PURCHASING AND REVAMPING THE IRRIGATION TECHNOLOGY ON THIS FARM AND THEY REPLACED 85% OF THE SYSTEM THAT WAS THERE BEFORE. WITH THE MOST HIGHLY TECHNOLOGICALLY ADVANCED CONSERVATION METHOD KNOWN AND POSSIBLE FOR FARMING AND THAT'S BECAUSE FONDAMONTE WANTS TO BE THERE FOREVER. THEY HAVE FARMS ALL AROUND THE GLOBE, ARGENTINA, UKRAINE BECAUSE THEY HAVE A LARGE DAIRY THAT THE COWS HAVE TO EAT THREE TIMES A DAY AND THEY NEED A CONSISTENT SUPPLY REGARDLESS OF CLIMATIC CHANGES OR POLITICAL UNREST. IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD AND WHAT THEY'VE DONE TAKEN A FARM THAT WAS EXISTING AND DEPLOYED CONSERVATION IRRIGATION TECHNIQUES AND THEY'RE WORKING WITH THE GOVERNOR'S OFFICE AND THE DEPARTMENT OF WATER RESOURCES TO COME UP -- THE GREATEST MINDS IN THE COUNTRY ARE HERE IN ARIZONA AND HAVE BEEN FOCUSED ON OUR WATER ISSUE. SO THEY'RE PARTICIPATING IN THOSE CONVERSATIONS AND HOPE TO MAKE IT MUCH BETTER.

TED: IS THIS JUST BUSINESS BEING BUSINESS, THE BIG GUY COMES OVER AND CAN PUMP MORE WATER, DOES PUMP MORE WATER AND IF THE TABLE LOWERS, THE LITTLE GUY, WHO'S BEEN THERE FOR A WHILE, FOR BETTER OR WORSE UNDERSTANDING THEIR CASE, THEIR WELLS DON'T WORK ANYMORE. IS THIS JUST BUSINESS?

JORDAN ROSE: NO, I THINK -- IT'S TO NO ONE'S ADVANTAGE IF SOMEONE'S PUMPS DON'T WORK. WE HAVEN'T HEARD THAT KIND OF DISCUSSION THERE. WE'RE TRYING TO -- THIS PARTICULAR FARMING OPERATION HAS DEVELOPED BECAUSE THEY'RE USED TO FARMING IN SAUDI ARABIA AND IN QUITE ARID CONDITIONS AND THEY'VE DEVELOPED TECHNIQUES THEY'RE USING TO TRAIN LOCAL FARMS AND THE 20 OTHER FARMS THAT THEY'RE ALSO PURCHASING THEIR PREDICT AND I THINK THEY'VE ALREADY HAD A POSITIVE IMPACT IN REVAMPING THE FARMS THAT THEY PARTICULARLY CONTROL.

TED: I KNOW THE FOLKS IN THE DOCUMENTARY WERE CONCERNED BECAUSE ANOTHER COUNTRIES SHOULDN'T BE USING OUR RESOURCES WHEN THEY HAVE DEPLETED THEIRS.

MARK KILLIAN: YOU KNOW, THAT'S A SPECIOUS ARGUMENT. MEXICO SHIPS INTO ARIZONA 5.4 BILLION-POUNDS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES, MAYBE WE SHOULD SAY THAT FOLKS IN MEXICO SHOULDN'T SHARE THEIR WATER WITH US. I WENT INTO A STORE YESTERDAY AND NOTICED THE BEAUTIFUL BELL PEPPERS AND I LOOKED AT LABEL, IT SAID HOLLAND ON IT AND I GUESS YOU SHOULD SAY THE PEOPLE IN HOLLAND SHOULDN'T SHARE THEIR WATER WITH THE PEOPLE IN ARIZONA. AGRICULTURE ACROSS THE WORLD IS FACING THIS ISSUE, WATER CONSERVATION, AND THAT'S WHY THERE'S SO MUCH WORK GOING ON THE UNIVERSITY AND THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE IN REDUCING THE AMOUNT OF WATER IT TAKES TO IRRIGATE CROPS AND THIS IS NOT GOING ON ONLY IN LA PAZ, IT'S HAPPENING IN MEXICO, NEBRASKA, CENTRAL KANSAS, COLORADO, TEXAS. DEALING WITH THESE ISSUES. AND THE BRIGHTEST MINDS IN AGRICULTURE AND SCIENCE ARE COMING TOGETHER TO TRY AND FIGURE OUT HOW WE CAN MEET NEEDS BECAUSE THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE WE HAVEN'T TALKED ABOUT TONIGHT. THERE'S GOING TO BE 10 BILLION PEOPLE IN THE WORLD BY 2050, THE AMERICAN FARMER HAS TO DOUBLE THEIR OUTPUT WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF LAND AND LESS WATER AND ARIZONA PLAYS A KEY ROLE IN HELPING TO FEED THE WORLD AND WHAT WE HAVE TO DO IS FIGURE OUT HOW WE PRODUCE CROPS, BETTER. WITH LESS WATER, BUT MORE CROP. HEALTHIER CROPS, SO WE CAN FEED THE WORLD.

TED: WE HAVE TO STOP IT THERE. GOOD TO HAVE YOU HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

TUESDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON" -- DID THE NEWSPAPERS MAKE A MISTAKE IN RELYING TOO MUCH ON THE INTERNET TO DELIVER NEWS CONTENT? AND WE'LL LEARN ABOUT GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH TO MAP THE HUMAN IMMUNE SYSTEM. TOMORROW 5:30 AND 10:00 RIGHT HERE ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." THAT'S IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US! YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING! CLOSED CAPTION PRODUCTIONS WWW.CCPRODUCTIONS.

Jordon Rose, attorney; Mark Killian, director, Arizona Department of Agriculture

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