Concerns grow over foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land

U.S. Senators are calling for stronger legislation to address national security and food security risks of allowing foreign actors to buy up American farmland.

Foreign ownership of American agricultural land has become an increasingly worrisome issue, prompting lawmakers to address concerns regarding national security, trade, and food security.

U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) testified before the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry this week to shed light on the urgency of the problem and advocate for stronger regulations to mitigate the long-term consequences.

During his testimony, Sen. Rounds emphasized the need for measures like Section 1086 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which would strengthen national security while preserving access and opportunities for foreign trade allies.

Rounds noted that foreign investment in U.S. real estate and farmland offers economic opportunities but can also pose significant risks. While Chinese entities currently hold less than one percent of all foreign-held acres in the United States, the volume of their holdings has surged dramatically over the past 14 years, increasing from around 13,000 acres to over 352,000 acres. Foreign ownership and investment in U.S. agricultural land have nearly doubled in recent years.

Sen. Rounds also highlighted instances where foreign entities attempted to acquire land adjacent to military bases, citing a case in 2020 where a Chinese-linked company planned to build a wind energy farm project near Del Rio, Texas, just miles away from Laughlin Air Force Base, where U.S. pilots are trained.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow acknowledged that foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land is a complex issue. However, she stressed the importance of bipartisan cooperation in finding effective solutions to address the growing concerns.