China Strategic Farmland Threat

China Strategic Farmland Threat


There is growing concern that China’s purchase of American farmland represents a growing economic and security threat.

There may be a lot more than just crops being planted in the purchased plots. According to U.S. Military News China’s Fufeng Group’s planned purchase in North Dakota is on a 370-acre plot of land located about 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. “The U.S. Air Force base is home to some of the top U.S. intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. The base is home to 319th Reconnaissance Wing, which is one of the major operators of the RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial reconnaissance vehicles. The base will also host a new space networking center which will help facilitate U.S. military communications across the globe.”

Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.) along with a number of others have demanded answers from the U.S. Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture and Treasury about the transaction  by the Chinese-based manufacturer with close links to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP.)

According to Gimenez, the location is ideally suited to closely monitor and intercept military activity.  He states that Beijing will be able to perpetrate espionage, including actions and activities carried out under commercial cover or auspices.

Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) have led a group of GOP representatives in outlining concern over the issue.  They have communicated their concern to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting information about USDA’s process for compiling data and reporting on foreign purchases of U.S. agricultural land. Foreign ownership of domestic agricultural land has risen sharply in recent years, with Chinese land holdings alone increasing from 13,720 acres to 352,140 acres between 2010 and 2020.

Newhouse states that “Over the last decade—and continuing today—we have witnessed the People’s Republic of China invest trillions of dollars throughout the Middle East, Indo-Pacific, South America, and Africa as part of their Belts and Roads Initiative. Now, they’re purchasing U.S. agricultural assets as a national priority for the PRC. This poses an immediate threat to U.S. national security and food security.”

All foreign holdings of U.S. agricultural land have increased by an average of 2.3 million acres per year between 2015 and 2020. At least 74 percent of these foreign holdings originate from countries with which the United States has friendly relations. However, in all foreign holding cases – potentially concerning or otherwise –information appears to be largely limited to the reporting companies required under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA). This legislation, enacted in 1978, only requires foreign persons who buy, sell, or gain interest in U.S. agricultural land to disclose their holdings and transactions to USDA directly or to the Farm Service Agency county office where the land is located; the bill does not require details related to a company’s ownership structure or investment intentions.

In a similar vein, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and supportive legislators have proposed legislation to restrict foreign purchases of agricultural land in their state. The plan creates a new board, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota (CFIUS-SD), which will investigate proposed purchases of ag land by foreign interests and recommend either approval or denial to the Governor.

“With this new process, we will be able to prevent nations who hate us – like Communist China – from buying up our state’s agriculture land. We cannot allow the Chinese Communist Party to continue to buy up our nation’s food supply, so South Dakota will lead the charge on this vital national security issue…” With vital national security resources like Ellsworth Air Force Base, we cannot afford for our enemies to purchase land in South Dakota,” adds Representative-elect Gary Cammack.

Frank Vernuccio serves as editor-in-chief of the New York Analysis of Policy and Government

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