Concerns over enemy nations using farmland for nefarious purposes, and billionaires outbidding local farmers to buy up tracts and build monopolies have grown in recent years, prompting the government to take action.
As Reuters reports, among those pushing for more stringent regulations on who gets to own farmland in the United States is New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. On Thursday, he introduced the Farmland for Farmers Act, which seeks to ban nearly all corporations, pension funds, and investment funds from purchasing or leasing agricultural land.
Booker warned that buying up farmland that could have gone to local farmers was "becoming an investment strategy for huge corporations," and said the government "must protect" the plots for those who need them.
According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, in 1993, "fewer than 32,500 non-family-held corporations own farmland, and they own less than 5 percent of all US farmland." By 2014, however, that number had jumped to 10 percent.
This has come with a massive spike in the cost of farmland, with a 75 percent increase to $3,800 per acre since 2008.
Foreign ownership of US farmland has also been a major cause of concern, as adversaries such as China buy up large plots.
On Thursday, the Senate passed the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act, amending the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024 which will prohibit China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying farmland in the US.
The legislation was spearheaded by a bipartisan coalition of congress members, and pushed through the Senate by Sens. Mike Rounds, a Republican, and Jon Tester, a Democrat.
"The United States cannot allow malign ownership bids of American assets by Communist China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea to undermine the efforts of our farmers, whose hard work feeds and fuels our communities," Rep. Elise Stefanik said in support of the legislation. "We cannot allow our adversaries to control land near our military installations and we cannot cede any ownership of our food supply to those who are actively working against our security interests."
Recent reports show that China holds less than 1 percent of all foreign-owned farmland in the US, while Canada controls 31 percent.
Many states, namely in the midwest, prohibit foreign ownership, while in other states the practice is allowed.
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