China’s interest in U.S. farmland sparks Capitol Hill concerns

A recent surge of Chinese interest in acquiring American farmland prompted states to limit foreign corporate purchases — and is now garnering the attention of Capitol Hill.

Chinese corporations’ increasing interest in U.S. farmland real estate has ignited discussions on Capitol Hill, prompting several states to enact measures limiting Chinese acquisitions. A recent hearing held by the House Agricultural Committee sought to address the potential risks posed to American agriculture.

The hearing comes in the wake of a spending package passage containing provisions aimed at curtailing Chinese investment in US farmland. Rep. GT Thompson (R-PA), Chairman of the House Agricultural Committee, emphasized the committee’s commitment to exploring all possible options, including potential provisions in the Farm Bill, to safeguard U.S. food security and halt Chinese encroachment.

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, pointed to a troubling precedent during the hearing. Gallagher cited the case of Xiang He-Tao, a Chinese national who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit economic espionage by stealing intellectual property from his employer, a Monsanto subsidiary. Xiang then transported this proprietary information to China, where he later worked for a state-owned research institute. Gallagher underscored this as an example of technology theft directly benefiting the Chinese Communist Party.

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However, the topic is complex due to China’s significant role as an export market for U.S. farmers, accounting for nearly 20% of all American agricultural exports in 2023. In response, South Dakota’s governor signed legislation prohibiting China and other countries from purchasing farmland in the Palmetto State.

A report by the Farm Bureau revealed that while China ranks 18th on the list of foreign landholders in the US, with ownership of 383,000 acres, the majority of foreign agricultural land holdings are held by Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, which hold a combined 50% of all American foreign-owned ag land.

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