Washington, DC – Yesterday, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Mike Flood (R-NE) in leading a push for accountability to address United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failure to conduct oversight of foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land. In a bipartisan letter, the lawmakers expressed deep concern for USDA’s failures to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land.
“Protecting America’s agriculture security is a critical part of our national security,” said Congressman Lucas. “USDA’s failure to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land between 2015 and 2018, which is required by the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, is extremely troublesome. The foreign ownership of agricultural land threatens family farm operations and the overall health of the agricultural supply chain. Recent increases in foreign purchase of U.S. farmland, including across Oklahoma, is indicative for more transparency so that the federal government and states can address flaws in the current system.”
In October of 2022, Congressman Lucas joined then-Republican Leader of the House Committee on Agriculture, Glenn “GT” Thompson and Republican Leader of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, James Comer, in sending a request to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review foreign investment in U.S. farmland and its impact on national security, trade, and food security as well as U.S. government efforts to monitor these acquisitions.
Today’s letter follows the publication of an internal USDA memo that revealed USDA failed to assess or follow through to penalize failures to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land between 2015 and 2018, which is required by the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA).
“Food security is national security, and I am demanding answers for why USDA failed to do its job to protect U.S. agricultural land from our foreign adversaries,” Stefanik said. “Our nation is currently faced with the increasing threat of foreign adversaries like China undermining our agriculture industry, encroaching on our military bases, and threatening our food security. The USDA’s failure of due diligence is inexcusable. There must be accountability, so we do not cede any awareness or ownership of our food supply to foreign actors working against the United States.”
“The recent increase in foreign purchases of U.S. farmland demonstrates the need for more government transparency of these purchases and to address flaws in the system for foreign acquisitions of land. We have an obligation to protect our food supply and those who produce it. It’s troublesome that USDA ignored these transactions and we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future,” Crawford said.
“Our country’s land is inextricably linked to our national security, food supply, and energy resources. At a time when foreign ownership of our country’s farmland is rightly coming under increased scrutiny, complete reporting will help ensure that the American people have all the information they need to steward the future of our land and natural resources,” Flood said.
In August of 2022, Lucas 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.
Last Congress, Congressman Lucas introduced the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, legislation that would formally place the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The Agricultural Security Risk Review Act ensures that CFIUS is operating effectively and efficiently to determine if a transaction, including agricultural, threatens to impair the national security of the United States.
Read the full letter here.