Officials say company with $800M worth of land near Air Force Base sues to 'intimidate' farmers

Local and federal officials say the process has gone from suspicious to intimidating.

Stephanie Sierra Image
Sunday, July 30, 2023
$800M land purchase near Travis AFB shows lack of federal transparency
Flannery Associates' nearly $1 billion land purchase near Travis Air Force Base remains mystery and lacks federal transparency, according to official.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Federal officials tell our sister station KGO's News I-Team they are "highly skeptical" of a company that's purchased nearly $1 billion of land near Travis Air Force Base.

The group Flannery Associates LLC has acquired 55,000 acres of dry farmland in Solano County - including parcels that surround three sides of one of the most critical military bases in the western U.S.

The mysterious purchases started in 2018 and continue in 2023 - amounting to around $800 million.

RELATED: 'Mystery company' buys $800M worth of land near Travis AFB, raising concerns about national security

"We're very, very concerned about this." A Solano County congressman is sounding the alarm about a mystery company that has bought $800 million of land near Travis AFB.

Local and federal officials say the process has gone from suspicious to intimidating.

"Their intention isn't to grow olive trees," said Sarah Donnelly, a city councilmember for Rio Vista. "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."

Rio Vista is surrounded by land acquired by Flannery.

"There seems like there's something larger in the works," Donnelly said.

The problem is - no one knows. And that point alone raises a bigger question. Why doesn't the law require more transparency?

The I-Team spoke with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee.

Smith said there needs to be greater transparency in who the principal owners purchasing land near military bases or national security sites are.

"I think we ought to get greater transparency on that," Smith said.

The I-Team confirmed over the past six years of these land acquisitions - there were no clear reporting structures from sensitive bases to federal agencies responsible for investigating land purchases near military bases.

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA08) is working to change that with new language in the National Defense Authorization Act or NDAA that would streamline communication so the proper authorities can review these cases. The I-Team confirmed these additions to the NDAA would not directly require ownership to identify itself while purchasing assets near military bases, but would ensure these types of transactions are reported to the FBI and CIFUS to be investigated.

"If you're not a nefarious operation, why are you keeping it secret?" Garamendi asked.

Last year, 300 acres of farmland were purchased near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Garamendi calls it a "spy base."

"A company in China was acquiring land around that base and wanted to build a 400-foot silo that could look directly into the base... and we were like whoa, whoa, whoa, what's going on there?" said Garamendi.

If it is later determined the purchase of the land is connected with a foreign adversary, Smith said the U.S. will have to evaluate the threat.

"I think we need to look at options and evaluate the threat. And look, it's going to depend... We have foreign direct investment in this country, from a wide variety of countries," Smith said. "I think we need to get the information and evaluate what the best steps forward are to protect national security."

Smith added it's important to recognize the U.S. will continue doing business with China, but believes the country needs to be cautious.