WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — Congress is scrambling to address foreign threats on American agriculture after a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report revealed that Chinese investors own a fraction of all foreign-owned agricultural land in the nation.

China owns nearly 350,000 acres of farmland across 27 states, according to the latest data from the USDA. As of 2022, foreign entities and individuals held 43.4 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, which is 3.4% of all privately held agricultural land and nearly 2% of all land in the U.S., per the USDA.

Some lawmakers argue this is a security risk because the land purchases are near U.S. military installations. Now, lawmakers are moving to crack down on such instances using the farm bill.

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Congress calls for reviews on China threat

The farm bill, renewed roughly once every five years, is a significant lifeline for rural states, farming livelihoods and how food is grown. Each bill has a unique title, and the current one is called the Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024

Lawmakers are working to further restrict foreign adversaries from purchasing land in the 2024 bill. This includes language that would require U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to review the threat China poses to the U.S. agriculture industry every year.

A key section of the bill, introduced by Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, would require Vilsack to submit “an assessment of the dependency of the United States on critical agricultural products or inputs that could be exploited in the event the People’s Republic of China weaponizes any such critical dependency.”

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Growing concerns over China buying US land

The effort comes as Chinese entities continue to buy U.S. farmland. Last year, one such project was halted after the town of Grand Forks, North Dakota, stopped a Chinese-owned company from buying land 12 miles from a military base.

According to the USDA, Chinese-owned companies hold 347,000 thousand acres of farmland — that’s less than 1% of all foreign-owned agricultural land. The Chinese-owned land is across 27 states, including Texas and North Carolina.

The Chinese-owned entity with the largest footprint is the parent company of pork producer Smithfield Foods, which owns nearly 100,000 acres.

Last year, the Senate passed an amendment in the annual defense bill to ban adversaries like China from buying new farmland, but it did not make it into the final version passed by Congress.


Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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