Gap in data complicates legislation to keep China off US farms

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Lawmakers in Congress and across the country are sounding national security alarms about foreign buyers, particularly those with links to the Chinese government, acquiring control of U.S. farmland and forestland.

Members of both parties increasingly see Beijing and the Chinese Communist Party as threats to the U.S. The warnings offer farm-state lawmakers an opportunity to advance proposals they have pushed for several years that would treat foreign control of farmland and businesses as national security threats equivalent to those posed by foreign ownership of cutting-edge technology companies and intellectual property.

Despite the rhetoric on China, however, there’s also worry that federal scrutiny over transactions recorded at a local level and sometimes with only voluntary disclosure of the buyers’ homeland could meet resistance.

The result is that legislative efforts that stalled in the 117th Congress are now back on the table, but with no clearer path to passage in the current Congress. One reason they might have a better chance is that both sides of the divided Congress appear to be in agreement on China. And several bills would toughen the approach to some buyers, an acknowledgment that federal scrutiny of some recent transactions didn’t block Chinese buyers from proceeding.