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Rep. Carl: Foreign investment in US farmland a threat to national security

Foreign-controlled United States farmland presents serious national security risks to our nation, including the potential for a foreign country such as China to have a massive control over U.S. food production, pricing, and supply chains. We need to work at the local, state, and federal level to learn more about the seriousness of the issue.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, foreign ownership of U.S. farmland nearly doubled between 2010 and 2020. Groups from Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany are among some of the main investors in U.S. farmland. However, several of our adversaries – including China, Iran, and Russia – are also buying up our farmland.

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 requires all foreign persons holding agricultural land to disclose their ownership to the USDA’s Farm Service Agency. The agency prepares an annual report from these disclosures, and we are seeing more and more alarming investments.

Some states have laws limiting foreign countries from buying American farmland, but not a single state outright prohibits foreign investment.

In fact, Alabama recently ranked third-highest in the nation for foreign-owned lands. The total amount of foreign-owned land in Alabama is nearly 2 million acres. I regularly get calls and letters from constituents who are gravely concerned about this, and I wholeheartedly share these concerns.

I’ve been looking into different ways we can address this, and I think there are some great
opportunities. I recently joined several of my colleagues, including House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member GT Thompson, on a letter to the Government Accountability Office insisting we have an immediate, thorough review of foreign investment in U.S. farmland. The letter also calls for information on the impacts of this foreign investment, as well as the federal government’s efforts to monitor these acquisitions.

While this letter alone will not necessarily solve this problem overnight, it will give us a good starting point to figure out all the details about this issue. We can then take this info and work on good, strong solutions to this problem.

Whether it’s our energy, our food, or  any commodity, I’m working hard to make sure America is not reliant on any foreign country – especially one that wishes us harm – for basic things we need to survive.

Jerry Carl represents Alabama’s First Congressional District. He lives in Mobile with his wife Tina.

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