- U.S. federal lawmakers are warning that businesses funded by Beijing’s authoritarian government are buying up U.S. farmland at an ‘alarming rate’
- Florida Governor Ron DeSantis pledged earlier this month to crack down on Chinese purchases of farmland and other property in the Sunshine State
- Sunshine state Rep. Mike Waltz told DailyMail.com that he was pleased to see the issue of China’s growing influence brought up as a 2024 campaign issue
Trump vowed to crack down on Chinese-backed companies’ ability to buy ‘vital infrastructure’ in the United States in a new 2024 campaign video released on Wednesday.
The former president accused Beijing’s government and businesses that are run on its dollars of ‘spending trillions of dollars to take over the crown jewels of the United States economy.’
‘I hope lawmakers can couple Florida’s Strategic Land Plan with existing federal legislation proposals this Congress to restrict these kinds of purchases from the Chinese Communist Party and other adversarial foreign entities.’
Trump claimed in his new video, ‘China is buying up our technology. They’re buying up food supplies. They’re buying up our farmland. They’re buying up our minerals and natural resources. They’re buying up our ports and shipping terminals.’
‘As I’ve long said, economic security is national security. China does not allow American companies to take over their critical infrastructure. And America should not allow China to take over our critical infrastructure.’
Trump called for ‘aggressive new restrictions on Chinese ownership of any vital infrastructure in the United States, including energy, technology, telecommunications, farmland, natural resources, medical supplies, and other strategic national assets.’
The former president called for an immediate halt to transactions with China and firms that it backs, and for pressure to be put on them to relinquish existing ownership ‘that put our national security at risk.’
The cornerstone of his plan calls for a ban on Chinese nationals buying U.S. farmland, amid bipartisan concerns of Beijing using its dollars to carve out influence in economies across the world.
Florida Rep. Mike Waltz, a leading voice in Congress against Beijing’s growing soft power whose state has taken action to tackle the issue, told DailyMail.com on Wednesday that he was glad to see it raised on the 2024 campaign trail.
‘This issue requires immediate action from leaders from across the country as it’s a national security threat and I’m pleased President Trump has made it a campaign priority,’ Waltz told DailyMail.com.
‘If we don’t do this, the United States will be owned by China which would make them very happy,’ Trump said.
A prominent part of his plan is placing a total ban on Chinese nationals from buying U.S. farmland. It’s not immediately clear how feasible of a policy point this would be to implement.
GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas immediately praised Trump’s plan, writing on Twitter: ‘China must be BANNED from having ANY ownership of our infrastructure, and President Trump is the ONLY person who can DESTROY China’s corrupt influence on our country. If we’re going to stop China, we MUST get President Trump BACK in the White House!!’
As of now, foreign transactions involving U.S. farmland are required to be disclosed to the USDA, under the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act. Failing to do so risks steep fines.
But now there’s a growing consensus among Congressional lawmakers that the four decades-old policy may need updating.
Foreign policy hawks in Congress like Waltz have been sounding the alarm for more than a year on companies at least partially funded by China’s authoritarian government, that have been buying up vast tracts of land in the American Midwest.
Iowa Republican Rep. Ashley Hinson said China was buying up U.S. farmland ‘at an alarming rate’ last week, according to the Quad City Times.
She introduced legislation to further increase transparency on foreign purchases of U.S. farmland, including security assessments and alerts for ‘idle’ land leases.
The plan Trump laid out on Wednesday is similar to a proposal floated by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – another likely Republican 2024 contender – to crack down on Chinese purchases in the Sunshine State.
DeSantis said at a recent press conference that he wants such a ban to be ‘as broad as possible,’ from farmland to retirement real estate.
‘If you look at the Chinese Communist Party, they’ve been very active throughout the Western Hemisphere in gobbling up land and investing in different things. And, you know, when they have interests that are opposed to ours, and you’ve seen how they’ve wielded their authority — especially with President Xi, who’s taken a much more Marxist-Leninist turn since he’s been ruling China,’ the Republican governor said this month.
‘That is not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases.’
Hinson: China buying U.S. farmland at ‘alarming rate’
Allowing Chinese investors to strengthen their presence and control over U.S. food production poses a national security risk
Citing growing concern about Chinese investment in U.S. agriculture, Iowa Republican U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson announced a renewed push Thursday to more closely monitor foreign ownership of farmland across the country.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with monitoring foreign investment in farmland under the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act. The law requires all foreign holders of agricultural land to report those holdings to the USDA.
Each year, the USDA’s Farm Service Agency releases that information in an annual report. However, the agency largely relies on volunteer reporting, according to a report by Investigate Midwest.
An investigation by the independent, nonprofit newsroom found significant gaps in the USDA database detailing all the land in the annual report. Investigate Midwest found more than 3.1 million acres without an owner listed. Its investigation also found many parcels listed were no longer controlled by the owner in the database. It was unclear if the land was removed from the database after it sold or a lease was terminated.
Hinson co-sponsored a bill led by Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik of New York and Rick Crawford of Arkansas to increase oversight of these acquisitions and require the Secretary of Agriculture to publicly disclose all new and existing Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act reports online.
The bill also would expand the scope of reporting to include security interests and land leases of any period, including idle agricultural land, and all interest acquired, transferred or held by a foreign person.
Hinson said the legislation would increase transparency for foreign land acquisition and help U.S. officials better understand the “threat” posed by Chinese efforts to control U.S. farmland.
“It’s hugely concerning to us,” Hinson said during a conference call with reporters. “So we are looking at what mechanisms we can put in place to make sure we’re able to adequately track who is buying that, and make sure we are ensuring that the Chinese Communist Party is not able purchase that land.”
According to the USDA, Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland increased from $81 million in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2020. And reports have shown that Chinese investors are buying farmland near military bases and other critical U.S. infrastructure.
As of December 2020, Chinese investors owned 352,140 acres, just less than 1% of all foreign-held farmland, according to the USDA.
That’s up from 13,720 acres owned by Chinese investors in 2010, but pales in comparison to Canada investors, which owned 32% (or 12.4 million acres) of all land in the United States and Netherlands buyers, which owns 13% (or 4.9 million acres).
In all, foreign investors owned about 37.6 million acres of land worth about $67.6 billion and equal to almost 3% of all U.S. farmland, USDA data shows. That is an area slightly larger than the size of the state of Iowa.
Texas has the largest amount of foreign-held U.S. agricultural land with more than 4.7 million acres.
Foreign investors held about 550,000 acres, or roughly 1.8% of all Iowa farmland. Iowa is among at least a dozen states that have limits on foreign ownership.
Allowing Chinese investors to strengthen their presence and control over U.S. food production poses a national security risk, Hinson said.
“We don’t want to completely block international land ownership,” she said. “That’s not what we want to see happen. We have a lot of international investment in Iowa in our district. But, we need to be very clear, the Chinese Communist Party is the greatest threat to this county. And we cannot allow them to buy another acre. Not another acre by the CCP.”
The U.S. House last year unanimously passed by voice vote an amendment to an appropriations bill that would require the USDA to take actions to “prohibit the purchase” of agricultural land by “companies owned, in full or in part, by China, Russia, Iran or North Korea.” Similar provisions were not taken up in the Senate.
The debate over farm ownership has intensified as Chinese firms over the past decade have purchased major agribusinesses, like pork processing giant Smithfield Foods. It also comes amid broader efforts by Congress and the Biden administration to curb the United States’ reliance on China in key industries critical to the nation’s supply chain.
The issue has been bipartisan, with advocates for stricter monitoring in the U.S. Senate including Democrats Jon Tester of Montana, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
China is one of Iowa’s largest trading partners, a relationship forged and strengthened by former Iowa Republican governors Robert Ray and Terry Branstad. Branstad served as U.S. ambassador to China under former President Donald Trump.
The U.S. House this week also voted to establish a select committee to assess the myriad military, economic and technological challenges posed by China.
“Taking proper action against China is long overdue,” Hinson said of that country’s posturing against Taiwan, to buying up U.S. farmland “at an alarming rate,” to its theft of U.S. intellectual property and human rights abuses against Uyghurs, a mainly Muslim ethnic minority.
“I believe we have been asleep at the wheel,” she said. “But I am confident we will be able to take meaningful action to combat Communist China, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans.”
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