Foreign Ownership of U.S. Farmland and the Threat of Adversaries

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Just how big of a threat does the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) pose to American farmland? That was the big question and a major focus of a recent hearing on Capitol Hill.   

“China would never allow us to go to their country and buy land in their country. There’s no reason we should allow them to come into our country and buy our land, and especially not close to our military installation,” said South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R- SD) in a recent House Committee on Agriculture hearing.

The committee discussed the dangers of adversaries digging in to American farmland. 

“You put our agricultural acreage or our processing capacity in the hands of foreign entities, it represents a tremendous threat,” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R- PA) “Food security is national security.” 

Congressman Thompson, the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said lawmakers are cultivating ways to protect food and national security, while also protecting farmers and critical trade relationships with China, a major importer of U.S. goods. 

“There is a balance to this issue. That trade is extremely important,” said Thompson. 

But just how much farmland do foreign entities and U.S. adversaries actually own?  

According to calculations from the American Farm Bureau Federation, based off USDA data from 2021, roughly three percent of U.S. farmland, or 40.8 million acres, were owned by foreign investors and companies. 

The calculations suggest that a fraction, 0.03 percent of the three percent, was Chinese owned as of 2021. However, the data is limited to majority investors and might not reflect shell companies or foreign entities with smaller shares. 

Many Republicans say more transparency is needed. Some say they would go as far as prohibiting foreign ownership all together. 

“I would, if someone puts out a bill on the floor to limit or eliminate the ownership of American farmland by any entity outside of the U.S., I will support that bill because our farmers built our country,” said Rep. Jack Bergman (R- MI). 

Congressman Bergman says the U.S. is becoming more food dependent. He says it’s a concerning trend that needs to be reversed. 

“We are not independent, as we’ve been forever. So we need to return to that as the United States,” said Bergman.