Lucas, Colleagues Call on USDA to Disclose Foreign Purchase of U.S. Farmland

Aug 01, 2022
Agriculture
Press

Cheyenne, OK – Recently, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Representatives Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA) in sending a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting information about USDA’s process for compiling data and reporting on foreign purchases of U.S. agricultural land. Foreign ownership of domestic agricultural land has risen sharply in recent years, with Chinese land holdings alone increasing from 13,720 acres to 352,140 acres between 2010 and 2020. 

“We are alarmed by the pace at which Chinese companies have been purchasing U.S. agricultural land in recent years. Given this trend, we want to ensure the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the reporting tools necessary to provide Americans with the fullest possible picture of all foreign purchases of United States land,” wrote the lawmakers

“We are alarmed by the rapid increase in the amount of United States land acquired by Chinese entities, because no major economic activity originating from the PRC is transacted without the direct or indirect participation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which does not share our nation’s democratic and free market values. Additionally, the PRC is a major global rival, and the CCP frequently engages in malicious practices: CCP-initiated intellectual property theft cost the United States an estimated $600 billion in 2019, and over the last decade, CCP nationals have been prosecuted on multiple occasions for attempting to steal U.S. seed DNA information.

“If we look beyond just China, all foreign holdings of U.S. agricultural land have increased by an average of 2.3 million acres per year between 2015 and 2020. Fortunately, at least 74 percent of these foreign holdings originate from countries with which the United States has friendly relations. However, in all foreign holding cases – potentially concerning or otherwise – our information appears to be largely limited to the reporting companies required under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA). This legislation, enacted in 1978, only requires foreign persons who buy, sell, or gain interest in U.S. agricultural land to disclose their holdings and transactions to USDA directly or to the Farm Service Agency county office where the land is located; the bill does not require details related to a company’s ownership structure or investment intentions.

The lawmakers concluded, “During this time of high inflation and supply chain challenges, food-producing land is more important than ever, and our constituents deserve to know as much as possible about foreign acquisition of domestic farmland, regardless of whether we are concerned about the motives of the parties involved. We look forward to your timely response.”

Earlier this Congress, Lucas introduced the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, which would formally place the USDA Secretary as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The growing concentration of foreign investment in the U.S. agricultural sector should necessitate that expert analysis of this sector be available to the Committee. CFIUS has the authority to review food and agricultural transactions to ensure the safety and resiliency of U.S. food supply but lacks the agricultural expertise of USDA in the review process.

Joining the letter were Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mayra Flores (R-TX), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Greg Steube (R-FL), Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA), Randy Weber (R-TX), David Valadao (R-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Pete Stauber (R-MN), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Jim Baird (R-IN), and Austin Scott (R-GA). 

Read the full letter here.

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