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Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land in the United States

Congress enacted the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (AFIDA) to establish a nationwide scheme for collecting information on foreign investments in U.S. agricultural land. Under AFIDA, certain foreign investors are required to disclose their acquisitions and holdings in farm, ranch, and forestland to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This data collected by USDA is compiled into an annual report to demonstrate the effect foreign holdings have on family farms and rural communities.

Recently, USDA published its latest AFIDA report, which provides data on foreign landholdings through December 31, 2020. According to the report, foreign persons hold an interest in almost 37.6 million acres of private U.S. agricultural land, an increase of 2.4 million acres from 2019. Since 2015, foreign investments have increased an average of 2.2 million acres per year.

The increased agricultural landholdings of foreign investors has become a growing concern for a few state legislatures. Over the past year, states such as Missouri, Indiana, Texas, and Alabama have considered legislation that would restrict foreign investments and ownership of agricultural land within the boundaries of their state. This is not a new concept, however, as ownership of agricultural land by foreign persons or entities has been an issue that traces to the origins of the U.S.

Today, approximately thirteen states specifically forbid or limit nonresident aliens foreign business and corporations, and foreign governments form acquiring or owning an interest in agricultural land within their state. However, state laws vary widely, and some states restrict only certain purchases while allowing for at least some level of foreign ownership of agricultural land. In response to the recently reported AFIDA data, more states may begin considering legislation aimed at limiting or restricting foreign investments in their states’ agricultural land.

Citations:

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Farm Service Agency. Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land. Accessed February 10, 2022. https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/EPAS/PDF/2020_afida_annual_report.pdf.

Brown, Micha. “Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land in the United States“. Southern Ag Today 2(8.5). February 18, 2022. Permalink

Staff Attorney
National Agriculture Law Center

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