The topic of China’s ownership of US farmlands is starting to boil over.
Six months after we reported that a “Bipartisan Bill Aims To Block Chinese Purchase Of US Farmland”, more are starting to pay attention yet as even Bloomberg notes that America “is seeing more and more of its most fertile land snapped up by China and other foreign buyers” the big problem remains: it’s difficult to know just how much farmland China has bought due to problem with how the US tracks such data.
Here’s what we do know: according to Department of Agriculture data foreign ownership and investment in US farmland, pastures and forests jumped to about 40 million acres in 2021, up 40% from 2016; but an analysis conducted by the US Government Accountability Office — a non-partisan watchdog that reports to Congress — found mistakes in the data, including the largest land holding linked with China being counted twice. Other challenges include the USDA’s reliance on foreigners self-reporting their activity.
As a result, foreign ownership of US cropland is drawing attention from Washington as concern rises about possible threats to food supply chains and other national security risks. And, as we reported last summer, lawmakers have called for a crackdown on sales of farmland to China and other nations.
“Without improving its internal processes, USDA cannot report reliable information to Congress or the public about where and how much US agricultural land is held by foreign persons,” the report said.
The GAO made six recommendations, including that the USDA share more timely and complete data with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US, an interagency panel led by the Treasury Department that reviews foreign business deals. And yet, with typical bureaucratic “speed”, it is certain that none of these will be implemented for years, in the meantime allowing Chinese state and private oligarchs to keep snapping up fertile US farmland.
Sun, 01/21/2024 – 21:35