House Republicans Ask GAO To Probe Foreign Ownership Of U.S. Farmland

Via the Wall Street Journal, an article on rising US government concerns over foreign ownership of US farmland:

The top Republicans on the House Agriculture and Oversight committees have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate foreign investment in U.S. farmland, questioning whether Chinese acquisitions in particular could pose a national-security threat.

In a letter released Monday, Reps. Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.) and James Comer (R., Ky.), as well as more than 100 other House Republicans, asked GAO to conduct a study examining foreign countries’ acquisition of U.S. farmland and its impact on national security, trade and food security.

“China’s ownership of U.S. farmland is a threat to our food security and national security,” Mr. Comer said in a statement. “Americans need transparency about the federal government’s efforts to address this growing problem.”

Democrats have expressed some concerns about foreign investments in U.S. farmland as well. House Democrats have backed a measure to prevent U.S. farmland from being bought by companies owned by China, Russia, North Korea and Iran in part of the continuing negotiations over government funding.

Canadian investors hold the largest share of foreign-held U.S. agricultural land, with 32%, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. Investors from the Netherlands, Italy, the U.K. and Germany collectively hold another 31% of foreign-held U.S. acres. Foreign investors held a total of roughly 37.6 million acres, or less than 3% of all privately held agricultural land, according to the latest report, which runs through the end of 2020.

Even though China held slightly less than 1% of foreign-held acres, analysts and lawmakers have expressed concerns that China’s need for more arable land and its search for new ways to feed its population are pushing the country to expand its U.S. holdings, through both legal and illicit means.

Several Chinese citizens in recent years have pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal or stealing elements of U.S. agricultural technology, including trade secrets from agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. and high-tech corn seeds from U.S. farm fields.

When it comes to farm equipment, animal breeding and intellectual property, “the United States is a global leader in all of these fields, making it a prime trading partner and often a target of China’s efforts to strengthen its agriculture sector and food security, sometimes through illicit means,” according to a May staff research report from the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a commission of security and economic experts convened by Congress.

In their letter to GAO, House Republicans raised concerns about a plan by the Fufeng Group Ltd., based in Shandong, China, to build a new wet-corn mill near an Air Force base. The company announced last November it had chosen roughly 370 acres in Grand Forks, N.D., for a mill expected to produce ingredients for animal feed. The city of Grand Forks said in early September that the Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or Cfius, had asked the company for more information.

“Concerns about national security, including a Chinese company’s purchase of farmland in North Dakota near an Air Force base that is home to top-secret drone technology, drive fears of foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land,” the House Republicans wrote to GAO.

Eric Chutorash, chief operating officer of the U.S. subsidiary of Fufeng, told the Grand Forks Herald in March that the corn-milling plant wouldn’t be asked to collect intelligence on the Air Force base.

Last month President Biden ordered Cfius, which screens foreign investment for national security risks, to heighten scrutiny of deals that may give China and other adversaries access to critical technologies or may endanger supply chains.

The Agriculture Department requires foreign investors to report their purchases of U.S. agricultural land, but lawmakers and other entities have raised questions about the data’s accuracy and whether USDA can track changes in how the land is later used.

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About This Blog And Its Author
Seeds Of A Revolution is committed to defining the disruptive geopolitics of the global Farms Race.  Due to the convergence of a growing world population, increased water scarcity, and a decrease in arable land & nutrient-rich soil, a spike of international investment interest in agricultural is inevitable and apt to bring a heretofore domestic industry into a truly global realm.  Whether this transition involves global land leases or acquisitions, the fundamental need for food & the protectionist feelings this need can give rise to is highly likely to cause such transactions to move quickly into the geopolitical realm.  It is this disruptive change, and the potential for a global farms race, that Seeds Of A Revolution tracks, analyzes, and forecasts.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has long held a keen interest in natural resource policy and the geopolitical implications of anticipated stresses in the areas of freshwater scarcity, biodiversity reserves & parks, and farm land.  Monty has lived, worked, and traveled in more than forty countries spanning Africa, China, western Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Southeast & Central Asia, and his personal interests comprise economic development, policy, investment, technology, natural resources, and the environment, with a particular focus on globalization’s impact upon these subject areas.  Monty writes about freshwater scarcity issues at and frontier investment markets at