Wall Street is moving to buy up U.S. farmland in hopes that it will be a safe bet to hedge against inflation and concerning economic conditions, according to Reuters.
Investment funds have accumulated over a million acres of farmland in the U.S., a small part of the 900 million acres in the U.S. but significant for the market when looking at the pace of acquisitions, according to Reuters. The move from investors is drawing the concern of some, including lawmakers, who see the quick constraint on supply as a barrier for the next generation of farmers who can’t buy at the elevated price.
Several states have already banned or are considering banning foreign ownership of farmland from U.S. adversaries such as China, a trend that has its recent roots in North Dakota.
Chinese food manufacturer Fufeng Group purchased 370 acres of land for a corn milling plant in Grand Forks in November 2021.
Ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has risen significantly in the last decade and amounted to 338,000 acres as of 2020, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.
Since 2010, Chinese nationals have reportedly purchased an additional 75,000 acres of U.S. farmland, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data obtained by the WSJ. Although amounting to less than 1% of all U.S. agricultural land held by foreign citizens, ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has received increased scrutiny in recent years following warnings from U.S. government officials claiming that the Chinese government may seek to use land for military and espionage purposes, according to the WSJ.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he’s considering banning Chinese entities from purchasing property in Florida and that the state legislature was looking at ways to further restrict the communist country’s influence in Florida.
“We don’t want to have holdings [in Florida] by hostile nations. If you look at the Chinese communist Party, they’ve been very active gobbling up land … and when they have interests that are opposed to ours and we see how they have wielded their authority especially with President Xi [Jinping], who’s taken a much more Marxist-Leninist turn, that is not in the best interest of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farm land, owning land close to military bases.”
Florida’s new Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson wants to restrict the sale of The Sunshine State’s farmland to foreign countries after increasing concerns about what foreign buyers – namely Chinese companies closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – are doing with the agricultural land once they purchase it.
Food costs and supply are becoming a point of contention for Floridians and Americans as a whole, and there is worry that the continuation of farmland sales to foreign entities could cause food prices to be intentionally inflated or production could be shut down altogether.
More than 100 House Republicans are asking a government watchdog to probe foreign investments in U.S. farmland, including those by China, which they say may present national and food security concerns.
Led by Reps. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania and James Comer of Kentucky, the lawmakers on Saturday called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study foreign farmland ownership and how the U.S. government is monitoring acquisitions, a letter shows. There has been an uptick in foreign investments and ownership, which may be “underreported” due to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) unreliable data, the Republicans say.