Bipartisan bills in the House and Senate, inspired by rising international tensions, would block China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying U.S. farmland or agricultural companies, said sponsors on Thursday. “Food security is national security, and I am proud to stand up against our foreign adversaries as they attempt to exploit any potential vulnerability and assert control over our agriculture industry,” said Rep. Elise Stefanik, a member of the House Republican leadership.
Foreign entities own 40.8 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, or 3.1% of the country’s privately owned land. Half of it is forests. Canada accounts for nearly a third of the foreign-owned land, according to USDA data. China holds 384,000 acres of U.S. agricultural land, or about 0.9% of the total.
“As a third-generation Montana farmer, I’m not going to sit back and let our foreign adversaries weaken our national security by buying up American farmland,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
Stefanik and 19 other representatives filed the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security bill in the House, while six senators offered the Senate version. Along with prohibiting China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying U.S. agricultural land or companies, the bill would make the Agriculture Department a member of the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which decides if projects would pose a national security risk.
Federal law requires foreign individuals and entities to disclose ownership information to the USDA, but it does not restrict ownership of private U.S. agricultural land. Fourteen states restrict or prohibit foreign ownership.
Earlier this week, the Air Force said a proposed corn milling plant in North Dakota, owned by a Chinese company, raised national security concerns because it would be too close to the Grand Forks Air Force Base.
A two-page Congressional Research Service publication on foreign ownership is available here.
To read the text of the six-page bill, click here.