About three percent of agricultural land in the United States is owned by foreign entities. But U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, thinks even that may be too much.
“One would think that’s not a very high percentage, but it’s obviously a lot of acres. And what’s more, probably somewhat alarming is how quickly in recent years that acreage has increased,” he said in an interview. “There’s clearly has been a concerted effort in recent years to purchase productive land by foreign entities, particularly China.”
Senator Cramer is a cosponsor of the FARM Act, known in long form as the Foreign Adversary Risk Management Act. He says it’s a matter of security on several levels.
“I just think for land in particular, we can’t grow more. We need to control our own food supply because it’s so critical. And then the fact that trade can be such a valuable tool in terms of both world peace and just moral obligation,” Senator Cramer added. “And we’re so darn good at producing food, I think we ought to keep as much of it in American producers’ hands as possible.
The FARM Act would increase the U.S. agriculture industry’s role on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is the government body responsible for overseeing the foreign investment and acquisition of American companies. The Agriculture Secretary would be brought in on proposed acquisitions that involved agriculture.
Specifically, the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act would:
- add the Secretary of Agriculture as a member to CFIUS;
- add language to protect the U.S. agriculture industry from foreign control through transactions, mergers, acquisitions, or agreements; designate agricultural supply chains as critical infrastructure and critical technologies,
- and report to Congress on current and potential foreign investments in the U.S. agricultural industry from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The bicameral, bipartisan legislation is led by Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) and Representative Ronny Jackson (R-TX). Senators Cramer and Tuberville are joined by Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
“Many Hoosiers are concerned about foreign countries buying up farmland, and it is a serious national security and food security concern,” said Senator Braun in an earlier news release. “I signed on to the FARM Act to protect American Agriculture from foreign interference.”
Representative Jackson (R-TX) is joined by Representatives Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-34), Pete Sessions (R-TX-17), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-07).
Original cosponsors in the House include Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA-21), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA-19), Mary Miller (R-IL-15), Ralph Norman (R-SC-05), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL-27), Rick Crawford (R-AR-01), Kat Cammack (R-FL-03), Kevin Hern (R-OK-01), Brian Babin (R-TX-36), August Pfluger (R-TX-11), Darrell Issa (R-CA-48), Zach Nunn (R-IA-03), James Baird (R-IN-04), Troy Nehls (R-TX-22), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Chris Stewart (R-UT-02), Ryan Zinke (R-MT-01), Ben Cline (R-VA-06), Michael Guest (R-MS-03), Jerry Carl (R-AL-01), Barry Moore (R-AL-02), John Rose (R-TN-06), Jake Ellzey (R-TX-06), Randy Weber (R-TX-14), Ashley Hinson (R-IA-02), Pat Fallon (R-TX-04), James Moylan (R-GU), and Randy Feenstra (R-IA-04).
Cramer said that even if the bill never gets to a vote, it has brought awareness to the issue and started discussions on foreign land acquisition.