States around the country have been preparing for a fight over their efforts to prohibit foreign ownership of land, particularly farms, amid national security fears and some political grandstanding.
Two dozen states currently prohibit or limit foreign ownership and investment in certain types of real estate, and another dozen are drafting legislation to do so.
Foreign ownership of land in the United States is limited, but it is expanding quickly.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, as of December 31, 2021, foreign persons claimed an interest in over 40 million acres, or 3.1% of all privately held U.S. agricultural land, up from 37.6 million acres and 2.9% in 2020. From 2009 to 2015, foreign holdings of agricultural land in the United States increased by only 0.8 million acres per year on average. However, they have risen roughly three times faster since 2015, at a rate of 2.2 million acres each year on average.
Much of the political action is directed toward China, but the largest foreign holders are not Chinese investors, but those from countries we consider friends—Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany.
While there is currently no federal law prohibiting foreign persons, companies, or governments from owning or holding farmland, and the most recent action has been in the states, some members of Congress are taking up the subject. Texas Republican Congressman Ronny Jackson reintroduced legislation this year that would classify the agriculture supply chain as essential infrastructure and prohibit foreign persons’ ability to buy major U.S. farms.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, a bipartisan bill would require further examination of certain land purchases by foreign firms, but not an outright ban.