Over the last decade, Chinese firms have significantly increased their presence in American agriculture through buying up massive swaths of farmland, and purchasing major agribusinesses, like pork conglomerate, Smithfield Foods (who controls 25% of our pork industry). By the start of 2020, Chinese owners controlled about 192,000 agricultural acres in the U.S., worth $1.9 billion, including land used for farming, ranching, and forestry, according to the Agriculture Department. As of mid-2021, bipartisan pressure began to build as House lawmakers urged Washington to stop foreign nationals from buying up American farmland and receiving taxpayer funded subsidies.
The money flowing into agricultural real estate from other countries makes it difficult for the new generation of American farmers to afford land, as outside buyers make hefty bids and often pay prices beyond current market value. This artificially increases the value of that land and poses a huge risk as the older generation of American farmers prepares to exit the industry.
While it’s true that other nations (like Canada and Europe) own larger percentages of our farmland, China’s presence in the American food supply is a national security risk, as the country is considered hostile to the United States. Tension has increased due to the upward trend in acquisitions and premium prices paid, raising concerns about buyers’ ties to the Chinese government. In 2018, the USDA reported that China’s agricultural investments in other nations have grown more than tenfold since 2009. Some states have strict laws in place surrounding foreign investment. Surprisingly, Texas has the largest amount of foreign-held agricultural land, at 4.4 million acres, followed by Maine and Alabama, according to USDA.
In April 2023, a law that would ban Chinese citizens from purchasing certain types of farmland was passed in the Texas senate. The bill also prohibits citizens of any nation deemed hostile to the United States (Russia, Iran, and North Korea), from purchasing this type of land.
Hopefully U.S. lawmakers continue their momentum cracking down on foreign investment in American farmland, taking a step toward securing our food supply and giving the next generation a fair chance.