Home ‘U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye’ to foreign ownership of agriculture

‘U.S. can no longer turn a blind eye’ to foreign ownership of agriculture

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Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act was introduced in the U.S. House yesterday.

The legislation would block foreign adversaries, including the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), from buying farmland in the United States.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack testified in a March 16, 2023 hearing that, as of 2021, 400,000 acres of U.S. farmland are owned by Iran, North Korea, China and Russia. USDA data shows that from 2010 to 2020 Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland increased from $81 million to $1.8 billion.

Introduced in the House by U.S. Reps. Dale Strong of Alabama and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, companion legislation is led in the U.S. Senate by Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Jon Tester of Montana, Marco Rubio of Florida and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

“The United States can no longer turn a blind eye to the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party. As the CCP looks to exploit weaknesses in our free and open society, it is our responsibility to ensure that the American people are protected against those who seek to undermine our national interest. This legislation is crucial to ensure our adversaries do not interfere with our food and fiber market by owning agriculture land,” Strong said.

Under the legislation, individuals associated with the CCP and other foreign adversaries, including Iran, North Korea and Russia, would be prohibited from purchasing or leasing U.S. agricultural land. Gaps in the Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure Act would also be addressed to increase transparency and accurate reporting related to foreign land ownership in the U.S. 

“As a former CIA case officer, I recognize the threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party’s aggressive influence campaigns, as well as its attempts to target U.S. national security interests through seemingly innocuous transactions. And as the only Virginian on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee, I’m committed to protecting America’s farms and farm families from foreign threats,” Spanberger said. “I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan, bicameral bill that recognizes the threats posed by not just by the CCP — but also Russia, Iran, and North Korea. If buying up American farmland is a tool for eroding our nation’s food security, economic security, and national security, then we need to be prepared to take steps to push back against these efforts.”

The U.S. lacks accurate data on foreign land ownership and investment due to loopholes and inaccurate reporting.

“We must be able to effectively monitor who is growing, producing and marketing our food safety and agriculture products. Lacking that ability is a clear threat to national security,” Strong said.

The legislation would also prohibit individuals associated with the governments of foreign adversaries from participating in certain U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. Restrictions would not apply to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.

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