A group of bipartisan lawmakers are sounding the alarm over foreign purchases of prime US agricultural real estate, in an effort to lessen China’s influence on the US economy.
Recent legislation advanced by House lawmakers warns that China’s presence in the American food supply poses a national security risk, while key Senators have expressed interest in keeping American farms in American hands, according to Politico.
The debate over farm ownership comes amid broader efforts by Congress and the Biden administration to curb the nation’s economic reliance on China, especially in key industries like food, semiconductors and minerals deemed crucial to the supply chain. The call for tighter limits on who owns America’s farms has come from a wide range of political leaders, from former Vice President Mike Pence to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), after gaining momentum seeded in farm states.
“America cannot allow China to control our food supply,” said Pence during a Wednesday speech at the Heritage Foundation in which he urged President Biden and Congress to “end all farm subsidies for land owned by foreign nationals.”
By the beginning of 2020, Chinese owners controlled approximately 192,000 agricultural acres in the US, worth around $1.9 billion – including land used for farming, ranching and forestry, according to the Department of Agriculture. It’s a small but growing percentage of the nearly 900 million acres of total US farmland – with the USDA reporting in 2018 that China’s agricultural investments have grown more than tenfold since 2009.
The Communist Party has actively supported investments in foreign agriculture as part of its “One Belt One Road” economic development plans, aiming to control a greater piece of China’s food supply chain.
“The current trend in the U.S. is leading us toward the creation of a Chinese-owned agricultural land monopoly,” Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) warned during a recent House Appropriations hearing.