Growing Chinese ownership of American farmland is leading to a movement in Congress to limit some purchases. One bill currently in committee would launch an investigation into the growing influence of Beijing over American farms while another would severely restrict China’s ability to purchase American real property.
According to a report from Congress, China has purchased large amounts of farmland to help meet its own food needs. China has the world’s largest population and much of its arable land is polluted or used for other purposes.
Furthermore, wealthy Chinese have been buying large lots of property in California and New York.
The purchase of American farmland also links to recent Chinese spying efforts, including the recently downed spy balloon. According to one former Treasury Department official, Beijing has attempted to purchase land near a number of sensitive sites, including near military installations.
States have taken notice, and 14 states have banned or otherwise restricted foreign purchases of land. Several others, including Texas and Florida, are considering similar restrictions.
In particular, Congress is considering several bills to restrict Chinese land ownership in the United States.
The first is the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act, introduced by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), which would bar American land from Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean ownership.
Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) introduced the Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act last year. Newhouse wrote that Chinese purchases represented a “threat to American democracy.”
A similar bill is being considered in the Senate.
The Chinese Communist Party (or those acting on behalf of the CCP) should not be allowed to acquire American farmland or lands used for American renewable energy production.
This morning, we passed @RepWesterman's amendment to make that clear. I voted YES.
— Rep. Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) March 30, 2023
The pressure follows a number of significant purchases of American land by Chinese or Chinese-linked individuals and companies. In particular, by 2021 the communist country owned nearly 400,000 acres, which is more than American billionaire Bill Gates.
The major surge in ownership came between 2019 and 2020. Prior to that, Chinese landownership stayed nearly flat. However, the sharp increase led to China increasing its land holdings in the United States by nearly 30%. The total acreage is similar in total to that of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Congress is under increasing pressure to slow or halt the wide-reaching Chinese land purchases. In particular, Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) introduced the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act.
The act, if passed, would begin an investigation by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) of the effects of foreign ownership of American land.
The bill states that “agricultural systems and supply chains” are examples of “critical infrastructure and critical technologies.”