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Congressmen introduce bill to limit foreign farmland ownership

Congressmen introduce bill to limit foreign farmland ownership

Foreign entities own about 3 percent of U.S. farmland

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

U.S. lawmakers have introduced a bill designed to address foreign ownership of American farmland.

Texas Reps. Ronny Jackson (R) and Filemon Vela (D) tabled the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act in Congress on Oct. 5.

Additional representatives from Texas, Indiana, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina and Mississippi cosponsored the bill.

Senator Tommy Ruberville (R-Ala.) introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

The FARM Act calls for amendments to the Defense Production Act of 1950 to “prevent harm and disruption to the United States agriculture industry by protecting against foreign influence over agriculture production and supply chains, and for other purposes.”

Specifically, the bill calls for changes to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

If passed, the agriculture industry and related supply chains would receive critical infrastructure designations. Ag is considered critical infrastructure by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

In addition, the FARM Act would require CFIUS to monitor foreign investment into the ag industry and add the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of CFIUS.

“Food security is national security, which is why the agriculture industry needs a seat at the table for the foreign investment vetting process,” Senator Tuberville said. “By adding agricultural supply chains as a covered transaction for CFIUS review, we can safeguard our food supply chains and agriculture industry from bad actors.”

And the USDA and Government Accountability Office would be required to investigate and provide reports to Congress on how foreign investments in U.S. ag affect national security.

Foreign investors from multiple countries own American farmland.

As of December 2019, foreign investors owned about 35.2 million acres of farmland, worth about $63 billion and equal to almost 3 percent of all farmland, USDA data shows. This area is roughly the size of the state of Iowa.

Canadian investors own about 29 percent of this land but investors from more than 100 countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and China own portions of U.S. farmland.

Industry groups welcome the FARM Act’s introduction.

Ensuring foreign owners are abiding by U.S. law is important, said Russell Boening, president of the Texas Farm Bureau.

“It is critical that proper oversight is provided to ensure our national security,” he said. “We are pleased this bill accomplishes this goal, while in-turn protecting private property rights of landowners who wish to sell their property.”

Foreign U.S. farmland ownership is the subject of an upcoming webinar.

Harrison Pittman, director of the National Agricultural Law Center, will host an Oct. 20 webinar on the topic.

Several states have proposed or passed legislation surrounding foreign farmland ownership.

“Advocates say legislation limiting foreign ownership of farmland limits the ability of powerful economic competitors such as China and Brazil to have control over the U.S. food supply,” he said, the Stuttgart Daily Leader reported. “This isn’t a new idea, because states began passing laws regulating the ownership of agricultural land as early as the 1920s and Congress passed the Foreign Investment Disclosure Act in 1978.”

The webinar is scheduled for Oct. 20 from noon to 1pm EST (11am to noon CST). Anyone interested in participating must register.

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