A mystery company that has been buying up farmland around Travis Air Force Base in California in recent years is now suing the farmers it bought the land from, accusing them of conspiring to inflate the value of their properties.
Lots of questions and speculation are floating around about the buyer, Flannery Associates, which has invested close to $1 billion to buy more than 50,000 acres farmland in the Jepson Prairie and Montezuma Hills area of Solano County. According to numerous reports, the company is filing suit for at least $510 million against the farmers.
Flannery is currently the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to The Wall Street Journal.
There is some suspicion that the company, registered in Delaware, could be a front for a foreign nation, which is happening as bills at the state and national levels look to restrict U.S. land purchases by foreign nations, particularly those that are deemed to be American adversaries. It wasn’t long ago that a Chinese company bought a few hundred acres of farmland near a U.S. Air Force base in Grand Forks, North Dakota. That land was supposed to be used for a wet corn mill, but concern arose because Grand Forks Air Force Base is the center of military activities related to both air and space operations, particularly an elite drone program.
In a letter to The Wall Street Journal, Flannery vehemently denied that any foreign entity has ever control over its business or its decisionmaking.
Still, the situation doesn’t sit right with a lot of folks.
“Their intention isn’t to grow olive trees,” Sarah Donnelly, a city councilmember for Rio Vista, told an ABS news affiliate. “It feels nefarious to need all of the land to the point where you’re going to sue them to intimidate to sell to you — those aren’t farmers. …
“There seems like there’s something larger in the works,” Donnelly said.
Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., told News Nation that the farmers didn’t want to sell their land in the first place but only agreed to do so after a much higher price than the initial offer was agreed to. And it’s that negotiated price that Flannery is now trying to battle in court.
According to the lawsuit, filed May 18 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California in Sacramento, “Flannery estimates that, to date, the Conspirators and their illegal price-fixing conspiracy have caused damages to Flannery from overpayment for properties from the Conspirators, their co-owners, and third parties of at least $170 million and that Defendants are therefore jointly and severally liable to pay Flannery treble damages in the amount of at least $510 million.”
Garamendi said he believes Flannery’s intent is to force the farmers to spend exorbitant legal fees and potentially force them into bankruptcy.