National Public Radio had an intriguing story about a hay farm in Arizona that is owned by a Saudi dairy company and how it is affecting local groundwater levels. “That dairy company, named Almarai, bought the farm last year and has planted thousands of acres of groundwater-guzzling alfalfa to make that hay. Saudi Arabia can’t grow its own hay anymore because those crops drained its own ancient aquifer.” The land in question had previously been under cultivation for corn, cotton and other crops, including smaller amounts of alfalfa for hay. You can listen to the story and read a transcript here.
The story points out that hay yields in deserts are particularly good because there is so much sunlight and drying is easy, as long as you have enough water to irrigate the crop.
A second farm, owned by a company from the United Arab Emirates, has now purchased a second farm in the area and is growing alfalfa for export to China. California also produces alfalfa that is exported to China, although that production has slowed due to the multi-year drought in the region.