Legislation introduced in the 117th Congress seeks to restrict foreign investment and ownership of U.S. agricultural land. In 2019, foreign persons and entities held an interest in 2.7% of U.S. privately owned agricultural land—covering crop, grazing, and forest land—according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Other related legislation seeks to limit the eligibility of foreign persons and entities for USDA farm program benefits.
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Foreign Farmland Ownership in the United States
USDA Data on Foreign Ownership USDA reports foreign persons and entities held an interest in 35.2 million acres of U.S. agricultural land in 2019, accounting for 2.7% of all privately owned agricultural land. USDA reports that foreign holdings of U.S. agricultural land have increased by an average of 2.3 million acres per year since 2015. Most acreage increases were in forestland, cropland, and pasture. These data cover both foreign-owned and U.S. subsidiary-owned land. Forestland accounted for 49% of all foreign-owned private land in 2019, cropland accounted for 25%, and pasture and other agricultural land for 24%. Nonagricultural land, such as homesteads and roads, accounted for 2%.
Individuals and entities in five countries accounted for more than 62% of all foreign-owned agricultural land in 2019 (Table 1). As a share of all foreign-owned acres, these were Canada (29%, mostly forestland), the Netherlands (14%), Italy (7%), the United Kingdom (6%), and Germany (6%). Other countries with foreign investments of more than 500,000 acres were Portugal, Denmark, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, and Japan.
All 50 states report foreign investment/ownership in U.S. private agricultural land (Figure 2). In 2019, states with the highest number of foreign-owned acres were Texas (4.4 million acres), Maine (3.3 million acres), Alabama (1.8 million acres), and Washington and Colorado (1.5 million acres each). Other states with more than 1 million foreign-owned acres were Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Oregon.
“Foreign Farmland Ownership in the United States,” CRS In Focus IF11977, November 18, 2021 (11-page PDF)
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