Foreign investment in U.S. agricultural and timber land
Jonathan Hettinger, writing for the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting, recently published an important article that was picked up by the Daily Yonder on June 9, 2019, and by AP the following day, “As foreign investments in U.S. farmland grows, efforts to ban and limit the increase mount.”
The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which may be understated, show that 28.3 million acres of U.S. agricultural and timber land are owned by foreign investors.
Maine has the most land owned by foreign entities, with 3.1 million acres. Texas is next with 3 million, followed by Alabama, Washington, and Michigan. Canada is the biggest foreign owner of U.S. agricultural and timber land, and owns 4.7 million acres in the United States. The Netherlands is the second largest foreign owner with 4.6 million acres. China has doubled its ownership of U.S. land (190,000 acres), with China’s Smithfield Pork owning the largest share (140,000 acres). Brazil is another large U.S. land owner, and Luxembourg is the the fastest growing foreign land owner, all of it forestland. The reason most cited by foreign entities for buying U.S. farmland is to ensure their food security.
Six states have banned foreign ownership of U.S. farmland: Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma. Missouri and Ohio are considering limiting foreign ownership of their state agricultural lands. In a campaign stop this land buy-up, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) has suggested she would support federal legislation similar to the ban in Iowa.