Which foreign countries are acquiring farmland in Kansas? Discover how to find out

Did you know that foreign investors currently own over a million acres of farmland in Kansas? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign individuals and entities possess a staggering 43 million acres of land...

Did you know that foreign investors currently own over a million acres of farmland in Kansas? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, foreign individuals and entities possess a staggering 43 million acres of land across the United States. However, these numbers are a year old, only accurate up until December 31, 2022.

Recognizing the potential national security implications of foreign ownership near sensitive military bases, several agencies, including the Department of Defense, are calling for more up-to-date information about the foreign countries involved in these acquisitions. They argue that providing this information once a year is not sufficient.

Recently, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) pointed out flaws in how the USDA collects this data. In a report, the GAO emphasized that without improving its internal processes, the USDA cannot provide reliable information to Congress and the public regarding the extent of foreign ownership of agricultural land in the United States.

Prompted by this report, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, along with nine other senators, introduced a bill aimed at gathering more comprehensive data on foreign farmland ownership. Senator Marshall stated, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it. USDA hasn't done a good enough job of measuring foreign farmland ownership and certainly appears to be incapable of managing this issue that's top of mind for farmers and consumers alike."

He further emphasized the bipartisan nature of the bill, asserting that if passed, it would strengthen transparency and accountability within the USDA. Marshall firmly believes that "food security is national security" and that foreign land ownership poses unique threats to America's food supply. To mitigate these risks, a better understanding of foreign investments in U.S. farmland is essential.

Under the current Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) of 1978, foreign buyers and sellers of American agricultural land are required to report their transactions to the USDA. However, Senator Marshall aims to improve and enhance this law to ensure more comprehensive and accurate data collection.

According to the USDA's 2022 report, foreign individuals and entities owned a total of 43.4 million acres of U.S. agricultural land. This accounts for approximately 3.4% of all privately held farmland and nearly 2% of all land in the country.

Kansas, in particular, has attracted significant foreign investment, with foreign investors owning 1.28 million acres of land by the end of 2022. This represents an increase of 95,000 acres compared to the previous year.

Here is a breakdown of the foreign investors and the amount of land they own in Kansas, encompassing both agricultural and non-agricultural land:

  • Italy: 398,858 acres
  • Canada: 388,480 acres
  • Germany: 26,483 acres
  • Netherlands: 11,732 acres
  • United Kingdom: 2,843 acres
  • All others: 454,384 acres

Interestingly, the "all others" category includes China, which currently owns 349,442 acres of land in Kansas. These foreign investors utilize the land for various purposes, with the majority being used as cropland (897,219 acres) and pasture (282,648 acres). Additionally, a small portion of the land is dedicated to forest (3,822 acres), other agricultural uses (94,356 acres), and non-agricultural uses (4,735 acres).

The USDA's annual report provides county-by-county breakdowns of foreign investors in Kansas. For those interested in exploring these details further, the USDA offers more comprehensive reports on foreign investors, which can be found by clicking here.

In response to the GAO report, the USDA has agreed with the first five recommendations for improving data accuracy and timeliness. However, additional funding is required to implement some of these changes. As for the sixth recommendation, the USDA plans to include data on secondary and higher interests associated with Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean investors in their next report. However, more resources are needed to expand these efforts.

The potential implications of foreign farmland ownership extend beyond economic considerations. By enhancing transparency and accountability, the proposed bill aims to safeguard America's vital food supply and protect national security interests.

As the debate continues, it is crucial to stay informed about foreign investments in U.S. agricultural land. By actively monitoring these developments, policymakers and stakeholders can make informed decisions to protect the interests of American farmers and consumers alike.