First, it was a competition issue, but recently, foreign ownership of U.S. farmland, especially by China, has become a U.S. national security issue.
A Chinese spy balloon spotted over Montana, and now a U.S. Air Force warning, proposed Chinese land buys in North Dakota are too close to a military drone testing facility.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley targeted the issue in telling farm reporters about his bill to include USDA in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
Grassley; “CFIUS made a decision that they didn’t have any authority to stop China from buying farmland in North Dakota, which seems to be very close to some of our military facilities. Now, I’m not saying that I know for sure that there’s a connection to our national security and Chinese buying that farmland.”
But the Washington Post reports, Air Force Assistant Secretary Andrew Hunter wrote North Dakota’s senators, the proposed corn milling site “presents a significant threat to national security”…citing “impacts to (military) operations in the area.”
And Grassley fears more farmland could fall into China’s hands in the future; “Nearly half of U.S. farmland is owned by Americans over 65 years of age. So that means, in the next 20-years, it could be up to 370 million acres of farmland, could be changing hands.”
A second Grassley bill would bar the farm credit system from lending to foreign investors for U.S. farmland. A bill enacted last year is aimed at transparency.
Grassley; “Under the bill, USDA is required to build an interactive database to show foreign ownership disclosures. And the USDA will report to Congress on the impact of these investments.”
Especially in driving up farmland prices. Most foreign owned farmland here is held by allies Canada, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany. USDA says China, Russia and Iran together, only accounted for 200,000 acres in 2019—but an amount that now seems understated, considering the latest national security concerns.