Farm state Senators have joined House colleagues in trying to crack down on foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.  In June, House appropriators included a ban on Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran owning U.S. farmland in their annual USDA spending bill.  Current federal law imposes no restrictions on foreign farmland ownership here, requiring reporting only.  Now, Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley have introduced the Farmland Security Act.  The goal is to modernize a 1979 law.


“Ensuring that the USDA is updating its website in real-time," Grassley noted.  "The bill also requires the Department of Agriculture to report to Congress on the impact that these foreign investments have on family farms, rural communities, and protecting our national food supply.”


According to the USDA China, Russia and Iran accounted for a combined 200 thousand acres of foreign-owned ag land here in 2019, most of it under China's control, largely by owning Smithfield Foods.  But allies Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany held the lions’ share of foreign-owned U.S. ag land at just over 35 million acres in 2019, or just under 3% of such privately held land.  And then Grassley pointed out, there’s the Food Security is National Security bill.


“I’m doing this with Chairwoman Stabenow. That bill requires the USDA to have a seat on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, called ‘CFIUS,’ for short.”


CFIUS is an inter-agency committee of the U.S. Government that reviews the national security implications of foreign investments in U.S. companies or operations.  U.S. lawmakers increasingly point to food as a national security issue as Russia continues its war in Ukraine, China threatens Taiwan and North Korea, and Iran develops or tests nuclear weapons.


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