A government inspector has been requested by more than 100 House Republicans to look into foreign investments in American agriculture, especially those made by China, which they claim could pose risks to the country’s food and national security.
The congressmen, led by Reps. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania and James Comer of Kentucky, asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate foreign farmland ownership and how the federal government is overseeing acquisitions on Saturday, according to a letter. According to the Republicans, there has been an increase in foreign ownership and investments, which may have been “underreported” as a result of the USDA’s (U.S. Agriculture Department’s) faulty data.
Foreigners who own land in the United States are required by the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 to register their ownership to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. In recent years, it has been discovered that the USDA’s data does not entirely account for foreign investments.
According to the Republicans’ letter, foreign ownership and investment in agricultural land in the United States has almost doubled between 2010 and 2020. A USDA report from December 2020 also revealed that foreign investors own around 37.6 million acres of agricultural land in the United States.
According to the 2020 USDA report, Canadian investors hold 32%, or 12.4 million acres, of the country’s land. The Netherlands possessed 13% of the total, followed by Italy with 7%, the United Kingdom with 6%, and China with 352,140 acres, or less than 1%.
Comer, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “China’s ownership of American farms poses a threat to both the country’s food supply and overall security. We must make sure that America keeps control of our nation’s resources because a plentiful, inexpensive food supply is essential to the health and prosperity of our country.”
Concerned lawmakers have already raised the issue of Chinese land purchases in the United States. The Republicans explicitly mention one Chinese firm’s acquisition of acreage in North Dakota close to a U.S. Air Force base “that is home to top-secret drone technology” in their letter.
Senior defense contractor General Atomics warned on September 20 that should it “perform significant test and evaluation initiatives relating to unmanned drones, radar systems, and other sophisticated military technology,” the facility’s confidentiality of weapons might be compromised.
“Concerns over foreign control of available U.S. acreage, particularly prime agricultural lands, as well as potential influence over food production and food prices have also been raised,” according to the letter.
The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act was passed in 1978, establishing reporting requirements. The Republicans are asking GOA to provide details regarding how its Farm Service Agency acquires and guarantees reliability of the data, as well as how its data-gathering methods have altered since 1978.
The GAO “received” the Republicans’ request, according to a spokesman that spoke to the DCNF, and will determine in about two weeks whether to look into the investments.