Foreign entities own around 40 million acres of privately held agricultural land in the US.
Between December 2020 and 2021, foreign acquisition of US farmland increased by 2.4 million acres, and since 2015, foreign holdings of US farmland have been increasing by 2.2 million acres annually.
The top five foreign countries owning US farmland are Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany. There are no federal restrictions on foreign investors purchasing farmland, and the limitations must be put in place at the state level. While 14 states have some form of restriction on foreign ownership of farmland, many more are considering proposals following two Chinese companies’ land purchases near Air Force bases in North Dakota and Texas.
Foreign entities have recently shown interest in purchasing land in the Great Plains states, particularly in Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, and Kansas, due to their predominant wind energy potential.
Despite China ranking 18th on the list of foreign countries owning US farmland, with a total of 352,000 acres, it is not a big player in the US farmland market.
The average per acre value for domestic purchases is $5,745, whereas foreign entities pay an average of $6,536 or approximately 13% more. Furthermore, foreign acquisitions are often conducted through leases of at least 10 years. Although foreign ownership accounts for only 3% of privately held agricultural land in the US, there is a renewed focus on purchasing land in certain states, leading some states to consider proposals to restrict foreign ownership of farmland.
The House Agricultural Committee members have asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office to study the act. The committee is also planning to hold hearings on foreign ownership of U.S. farmland, but there are concerns about escalating tensions with China.