By Corinne Murdock |
Congressmen Andy Biggs (R-AZ-05) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ-04) joined 128 congressmen in a petition asking the federal government to investigate foreign investment in U.S. farmland.
The request letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) named Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, and Saudi Arabia as top foreign investors of interest. Most notably, the letter cited China’s purchase of farmland just 20 minutes from the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where the military hosts critical drone technology. Approximately three hours west of that base is Minot Air Force Base, one of the nation’s three intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) defense sites.
As of 2020, foreign owners and investors accounted for 37.6 million acres — nearly 3 percent of farmland. Since 2015, foreign ownership has increased by about 2.2 million acres annually. When the federal government began tracking foreign ownership of farmland in 1979, foreigners owned 5.6 million acres of farmland of the 1.4 billion acres of privately held farmland.
The congressmen asked the GAO to evaluate the trends and details of foreign ownership, provide data collection methods on foreign ownership, disclose procedures ensuring proper disclosures of foreign acquisitions and sales of farmland, evaluate whether foreign ownership filtered through a U.S. charter company or corporation is accurately labeled as foreign ownership, disclose review methods ensuring foreign-owned land doesn’t pose a national security threat, suggest improvements to strengthen reporting of foreign ownership, and disclose interagency and nongovernmental partnerships that ensure accurate disclosures of foreign ownership.
Each year, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) issues a data report on foreign-owned farmland. The 2021 FSA report hasn’t been published yet.
Congressmen David Schweikert (R-AZ-06), Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-03), Greg Stanton (D-AZ-09), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-02), and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ-01) didn’t sign onto the letter.