Foreign investors own more than 25 million acres of U.S. farmland and they are snapping up even more at a growing pace, according to a Mother Jones report.
Between 2004 and 2014, the amount of American farmland owned by foreign entities has doubled, with Canada, the Netherlands, and Germany laying claim to the most.
The 25 million acres figure comes from the most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data available, Mother Jones noted, which was gathered in 2011. But since that time, “Italian buyers have purchased 102,000 acres, New Zealand has bought around 18,000, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have gone in on more than 15,000 acres,” according to New Food Economy.
Though the report did not break down which countries are buying which types of farmland, it did note that China has a particular interest in hog farming: “The country now controls more than 400 farms, 33 food processing plants, and one out of every four hogs in the United States.”
In 2013, China’s Shuanghui, now called WH Group Limited, purchased Smithfield Company — America’s largest pork producer — for an estimated $4.72 billion.
In doing so, the Chinese buyer secured more than 100,000 acres of U.S. farmland.
The increase in foreign-owned U.S. farmland has garnered criticism from some lawmakers, as well as rural advocacy groups, who believe the situation poses a threat to national security.
Mother Jones noted that two lawmakers, Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), introduced a bill that aims to stave off food security issues going forward.
The Food Security is National Security Act of 2017 would keep ownership of U.S. farmland in American hands. “As we think about the future and the growing global population, it’s important to consider who will control the food supply,” Grassley said.