China Farmland Purchase Tracking Imperfect No Matter What

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told House Ag lawmakers recently that no matter how much Congress tries, USDA’s tracking of China’s farmland buys in the U.S. will always be wanting.

China’s U.S. farmland buys and its nefarious hacking, IP thefts of seed genetics, and data breaches have raised U.S. concerns to a fever pitch and prompted recent sanctions against CCP actors. But Secretary Vilsack warns there’s just so much USDA can do to track Beijing’s buys of U.S. farmland.

Vilsack says, “No matter how much money you give us, it will always be imperfect for this reason: there are over three thousand county recorder offices around the country. Every county has a recorder’s office. It would require us to have a centralized database where every real estate transaction would essentially be put into a database to look at.”

But Vilsack says USDA’s moving ahead with other efforts, including on the GAO’s recommendation to work more closely with agencies linked to the Treasury-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.

He says, “I made a request of the Treasury Department for us to be more engaged in issues involving agribusiness, agriculture, farmland, and we have. We’ve been engaged and involved in a number of projects. We appreciate the fact that in this 2024 budget that was recently passed, it provided resources for the first time directly assisting us to expand staffing for that purpose.”

Vilsack says the USDA is also expanding its review of loans and tax records to identify foreign land purchases. But in another cautionary note, Vilsack says Congress directed USDA to set up a web portal for data but never provided the funds to do it.

Story courtesy of NAFB News Service and Matt Kaye/Berns Bureau Washington

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