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New bill designed to mitigate foreign ownership of U.S. farmland

New bill designed to mitigate foreign ownership of U.S. farmland

Republican Congresspeople introduced the Agricultural Foreign Investment Transparency Act on Dec. 8

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A piece of legislation introduced by Republican Congresspeople is designed to make foreign farmland ownership more transparent.

Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rick Crawford (R-AR) introduced the Agricultural Foreign Investment Transparency Act on Dec. 8 with the support of multiple other Republican lawmakers.

Foreign interests owning parcels of U.S. farmland pose multiple threats, Rep. Crawford said.

“This legislation would shine a light on American agricultural land controlled by entities in communist China and elsewhere so we can evaluate the risk to our national security and implement an effective response,” he said in a statement.

The bill calls for updates to the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act.

The U.S. passed this law in 1978 to establish a system of collecting data on foreign farmland ownership.

Rep. Stefanik’s and Rep. Crawford’s bill would:

  • Require the Secretary of Agriculture to make all new and existing AFIDA reports publicly available on the USDA website,
  • Expand the material reported to AFIDA to include security interests and land leases of any period, including idle agricultural land, and
  • Increase oversight and expand the scope of reporting to ensure there is a report of all idle land acquisitions, companies that issue equity securities that are foreign-traded, and all interest acquired, transferred, or held by a foreign person

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.

Lawmakers have introduced two other bills in 2022 designed to combat foreign farmland ownership.

In August, Republican Senators Tom Cotton (AR) and Tommy Tuberville (AL) tabled the Securing America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act.

The bill directs the president “to take such actions as may be necessary to prohibit the purchase of public or private real estate located in the United States by the Chinese Communist Party, and for other purposes.”

And in October, Texas Reps. Ronny Jackson (R) and Filemon Vela (D) introduced the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act.

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.”

And at least one state government passed legislation in 2022 limiting foreign farmland ownership.

In March, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 388 into law.

Under this legislation, as of July 1, 2022, a foreign business entity may only own up to 320 acres of land in Indiana. Groups that have purchased land before the July 1 deadline will be able to keep their acres

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