Foreign investment in U.S. farmland may be a national security issue, according to expert

THE CENTER SQUARE:

Foreign investment in U.S. farmland has tripled in the past 10 years, reporters at a non-profit investigative journalism group found.

Investigate Midwest used U.S. Department of Agriculture data to call attention to this trend. Farmer Joe Maxwell, co-founder of the group Farm Action, told The Center Square that control of U.S. farmland by foreign investors is worrisome on a number of fronts. 

“The real question is, who do the people of the United States want to be their farmer? Do they want Saudi Arabia, Canada, China, other countries to be their farmer? Do they want Bayer or Cargill or other large corporations to be their farmer?” Maxwell asked.

The pandemic showed that reliance on multinational corporations for agricultural inputs is a failed system, Maxwell said. 

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, has been trying to pass the bipartisan Food Security is National Security Act in Congress for several years now. On his website, Grassley said deep-pocketed investors are making it hard for young farmers to buy the land they need to get established. 

Farm Action has been lobbying Congress to get states to monitor foreign investment, Maxwell said. The investors are not purchasing the farmland for the production value of the land, he said. Investors, corporations and hedge funds – many foreign-owned – buy U.S. farmland as a monetary investment rather than for the food and feed that the land produces, he said. 

Maxwell calls it “a real crisis.” U.S. farmland should be used to produce food for people who live here, he said, and investors are driving up farmland prices so that the next generation of farmers cannot buy the land they need. 

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