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China Buying Us Farmland ((BETTER))

"This is no small amount of food we're talking about," Johnson says. "In recent years the Chinese Communist Party has increased their holdings of foreign farmland ... by 1000%. They own 1,300 agricultural processing facilities outside of China, and that number is growing rapidly."

china buying us farmland

Rep. Johnson is among the bipartisan group of lawmakers who support the PASS Act, which would create a federal ban on China, Iran, North Korea or Russia buying U.S. agricultural land or processing facilities.

Johnson, a co-sponsor of the bill, says Chinese holdings are a very small portion of total farmland in the U.S. right now, but the issue may become a larger focus for the new House committee. The panel is planning future field hearings, which could include traveling to a state to highlight the issue of China's investment in land or agricultural businesses.

On the state level, regulations vary. Most states, like Texas and Maine, have no restrictions on foreign ownership of land, contributing to the large amount of farmland that is under foreign control in these states. Six states forbid any foreign landholdings, and some, like Missouri, put caps on how much land can be held by foreign entities.

A4: Since the 2013 purchase of Smithfield Foods, multiple bills have been proposed to provide more oversight of foreign investments in U.S. agricultural companies (including in 2017 and 2020), but until recently they each died in committee. Even if these bills had passed, they would have strengthened oversight on purchases of U.S. companies, not agricultural land specifically, leaving most land acquisitions unregulated. Furthermore, policymakers have signaled no efforts to improve state- or national-level information on foreign purchases of U.S. farmland, leaving the true picture obscured.

A5: Land grabbing is more of an immediate threat to food security in other parts of the world than it is in the United States, but it could become a greater threat in the future if more farmland is sold and if foreign investors continue to buy available farmland. The U.S. farmer population is aging, with an average age of 57.5 in 2017, up from 55 in 2012. The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) anticipates that two-thirds of farmland will change hands over the next decade as farmers retire, meaning that more land could become available for foreign purchase.

It is important to note that foreign entities are not the only ones aggressively buying up U.S. farmland. Many large corporations, pension funds, and wealthy individuals are investing in agricultural land in the United States and abroad. Advocacy groups like the National Family Farm Coalition argue that the larger threat to national security is corporate capture of U.S. land resources, whether those corporations are U.S.- or foreign-owned. The NYFC also points to both urban and rural development as a threat to the future of U.S. farms, since converting farmland to other uses drives up prices and makes the land unaffordable for beginning farmers. Along similar lines, climate-related efforts to increase biofuel production and expand afforestation and reforestation could reduce the amount of land available for food production in the future.

For long-term U.S. food security, perhaps the larger concern is why up-and-coming U.S. farmers are unable to buy the land they need. According to the NYFC, young and aspiring farmers say access to land is their largest barrier to starting a successful farm business. With an aging U.S. farmer population and not enough new farmers able to enter the industry, more land will inevitably be converted to other uses or sold to foreign and domestic investors unless policies are put in place to support the next generation of farmers. Focusing narrowly on land purchases by Chinese companies or other foreign entities will not address the full scope of this problem. Policymakers should, instead, consider the many threats facing the future of the U.S. food system and ensure that current and aspiring farmers have the resources they need to secure long-term U.S. food production, starting with access to affordable farmland. In addition to federal action, some states, like Arizona, could do more to protect their local resources and communities from exploitation by domestic and foreign entities.

A previous version of this Critical Questions incorrectly stated that upon acquiring Smithfield Foods, WH Group (formerly Shuanghui) owned 146,000 acres of Missouri farmland. This piece has been corrected to state that upon acquiring Smithfield Foods, WH Group was reported to own 146,000 acres of farmland across the United States, including approximately 42,000 acres of farmland in Missouri as of 2015.

However, there are two things that make Chinese ownership in our farmland particularly concerning. First, foreign investors from China are under the total and absolute control of the communist Chinese government. And second, that government has become increasingly hostile towards America. From military threats to cyber attacks to rampant intellectual property theft, the leadership of that nation has some serious behavioral problems that represent a threat to our nation.

And from a military standpoint, it is alarming that China now controls farms near critical military installations like Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota and Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. Several states already have restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland, but I believe this is an issue that needs attention at the federal level.

Following the controversial sale, Republican Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota introduced a bill in August that would ban the governments of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying or investing in U.S. agricultural land.

There's not much on the more than 300-acre patch of prime Dakota farmland right now other than dirt and tall grasses, bordered by highways and light industrial facilities on the outskirts of the city.

Gary Bridgeford, who sold his parcel of the farmland to the Chinese company for around $2.6 million this year, said his neighbors have vented their anger at him and planted signs opposing the project in his front yard. "I've been threatened," he said. "I've been called every name in the book for selling property."

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and a stronger food supply system. During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this past year, Tester pushed for answers about how the federal government tracks foreign investment in American farmland and agribusiness.

Lawmakers in Congress and across the country are sounding national security alarms about foreign buyers, particularly those with links to the Chinese government, acquiring control of U.S. farmland and forestland.

Members of both parties increasingly see Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party as threats to the U.S. The warnings offer farm-state lawmakers an opportunity to advance proposals they have pushed for several years that would treat foreign control of farmland and businesses as national security threats equivalent to those posed by foreign ownership of cutting-edge technology companies and intellectual property.

Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland also grew substantially in 2013, when Shuanghui International Holdings bought Smithfield Foods in a deal that included farms, hogs, equipment, technology, water rights and intellectual property.

Hawley introduced a bill that would apply to farmland acquisitions, leases and ownership by individuals and entities with ties to the Communist Party in mainland China, its administrative regions, Hong Kong and Macau. Such owners would have to sell existing holdings within two years.

Newhouse, an appropriator, drew attention to farmland acquisitions with amendments to the fiscal 2023 and 2022 House Agriculture spending bills barring the sale of farmland to companies fully or partially owned by China. The amendments drew bipartisan support but did not become law.

The bills propose several ways to address foreign control of farmland, including stiffer fines for failing to report accurately to the Farm Service Agency and giving the Agriculture Department a seat on CFIUS.

Is China buying up U.S. farmland? And is that a threat to America's food supply? The issue has become a "flashpoint" in relations between the two countries, The Wall Street Journal reports. In Congress and in a growing number of U.S. states, there is a movement to ban foreign ownership of agricultural land so that "the U.S. food-supply chain is protected and that China and other foreign adversaries aren't able to use U.S. land as a perch for spying." But some critics suggest that such efforts are the result of anti-Asian sentiment that has been festering in the United States in recent years. "This is the same sentiment that had people putting up signs saying 'Irish Need Not Apply,'" said one Texas lawmaker. How much American land is owned by Chinese entities? And are bans on the way? Here's everything you need to know:

Sort of. Critics of Chinese ownership do often invoke the safety of America's food supply when arguing for a ban. Those fears might be a bit overblown: CSIS says foreign acquisitions of U.S. farmland "do not represent a substantial enough portion of food production in the United States to threaten national food security." The pandemic played a role in increasing concern, though. "Smithfield increased pork exports to China even as the United States experienced widespread meat shortages due to supply chain disruptions."

Roughly 40 percent of American farmland will change hands over the next two decades, part of a generational handoff from older farmers to younger. "Ensuring that those acres are transferred in a way that protects national and food security should be a priority," Adam Minter writes at Bloomberg Opinion. But that can be done without barring foreign ownership, he writes. Better solutions include "demanding more transparency about foreign land acquisitions." Indeed, legislation to require "real time" disclosures of land purchases by foreign nationals has been introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, (D-Wisc.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa.). But Minter argues that an outright ban "codifying prohibitions on Chinese nationals at a time when Asian-Americans already face discrimination would likely inflame an already difficult situation." 041b061a72


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