Government officials are investigating a mystery company that bought around 55,000 acres of dry farmland around a USAF base in California.
Travis Air Force Base, northeast of San Francisco, is home to large transport planes used to resupply smaller planes and ship aid and ammunition around the world.
As of 2018, a company called Flannery Associates LLC has spent about $800 million buying up land around the base, leaving local, state, and federal officials baffled as to who they are and what they want with them.
An attorney representing Flannery said The Wall Street Journal the company is controlled by US citizens and that 97 per cent of its capital comes from US investors, with the rest of the investments coming from British and Irish citizens.
State officials are investigating a mystery company that bought about 55,000 acres of dry farmland around a California Air Force base northeast of San Francisco.
Travis Air Force Base (pictured) is home to large transport planes used to resupply smaller planes and send aid and ammunition abroad.
In a letter to Solano County, which is majority-owned by Flannery, the company describes itself as “owned by a group of families looking to diversify their portfolio of stocks into real assets, including farmland in the western United States.” States,’ according to the county newspaper the daily republic.
But after eight months of investigation, the Air Force’s “Office of Foreign Investment Risk Review” has been unable to identify anyone behind the Flannery, according to the Journal.
Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture has conducted its own investigations, also to no avail.
“No one can find out who they are,” Ronald Kott, mayor of nearby Rio Vista, which is now largely surrounded by Flannery land, told The Journal. Whatever they’re doing, this seems like a very long-term play.
Over the years that Delaware-registered Flannery has been buying up land, it has given a variety of accounts and indications of what it wants to do with it.
An attorney for Flannery, Richard Melnyk, said in an email to the county in 2019 that he was considering working with local farmers to grow “new types of crops or orchards,” according to The Journal.
Mitch Mashburn, who works for the county, questioned the feasibility of using the land for agricultural purposes.
A lawyer for the shadowy Delaware-registered Flannery Associates said the investors were 97 percent American, though those claims have not been verified.
Many of the aircraft housed at Travis Air Force Base are large military transport aircraft such as the C-5 and C-17. In the photo, a sgt. looking over the open aircraft ramp of a 62nd Airlift Wing C-17
“Most of the land they are buying is dry farmland,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t see where that land can turn a profit to be worth nearly a billion dollars in investment.”
In a separate email also seen by the Journal, Melnyk said Flannery was considering leasing “a substantial part” of his land to olive growers, including some at the base.
According to online business records, an individual named Thomas Mather was listed as a director or officer of the company, although there is almost no other information publicly available about him.
He is also listed as a manager of another Delaware-registered company called Diversified Land LLC, with the same California address in Folsom.
And it’s not just local officials who are confused.
“We don’t know who Flannery is, and his big purchases don’t make sense to anyone in the area,” Democratic Rep. John Garamendi, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee’s preparatory panel, told the Wall Street Journal.
“The fact that they are purposely buying land up to the Travis fence raises important questions.”
The mystery surrounding Flannery is reminiscent of last year’s much smaller purchase of 300 acres of farmland in North Dakota, just minutes from another Air Force base.
The land that the Fufeng Group purchased is 20 minutes, approximately 16 miles, from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The mystery surrounding Travis is reminiscent of the much smaller purchase last year of 300 acres of North Dakota farmland by a Chinese company.
China-based food producer Fufeng Group planned to build a corn-grinding plant on its new land in Grand Forks, just 20 minutes from Grand Forks Air Force Base, where some of the technology is housed. of most sensitive drones in the country.
The purchase raised suspicions among military officials, national security experts and lawmakers alike.
A 2019 report from the US Department of Agriculture showed that China owned at least 192,000 acres of US farmland worth more than $1.9 billion.
Although Canada, for example, owns much more farmland than the US, a 2018 USDA report showed that Chinese farm holdings in the US and other countries had increased tenfold since 2009.