Alabama has the third-most foreign-owned agricultural land in the United States
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) joined U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Jon Tester (D-MT), and 10 other Senate colleagues in introducing the AFIDA Improvements Act of 2024 to collect more information about foreign ownership of American farmland. The legislation builds on Senator Tuberville’s efforts to secure America’s agriculture industry from foreign adversaries, including the Foreign Adversary Risk Management Act, Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act, andSecuring America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act.
“We can’t let our enemies hold our food supply hostage,” said Senator Tuberville. “Right now, they’re buying up more and more of the farmland that feeds our people. We need to get ahead of this. Our farms ought to stay American and our farmers must continue to thrive and to beat the competition.”
The AFIDA Improvements Act of 2024 would update the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) of 1987 in response to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that revealed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is ill-equipped to fully combat nefarious foreign ownership of American agricultural land by foreign adversaries. Under AFIDA, foreign persons who acquire, dispose of, or hold an interest in U.S. agricultural land are required to disclose those transactions to the USDA.
The proposed legislation sponsored by Coach Tuberville would:
1) Streamline CFIUS Data Sharing: Require USDA to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to govern data sharing between USDA and CFIUS member agencies within one year of enactment.
2) Modernize the AFIDA Handbook: Direct USDA to update the agency’s handbook for officials to collect AFIDA data within one year of enactment. This handbook was last updated in 2006.
3) Better Implementation: Require USDA to give Congress a timeline to meet specific implementation benchmarks for an online AFIDA submission system and public database. While Congress has required USDA to implement an online system by 2025, GAO discovered that USDA “has not developed timelines for creating an online submission process [or] a public database.”
4) Improve Data Verification and Monitoring: Direct and enable USDA to take any such actions as are necessary to validate foreign ownership data collected under AFIDA.
5) Identify Suspected Non-Filers: Direct USDA to better leverage Farm Service Agency (FSA) data to identify individuals who have illegally not filed transactions with foreign persons under AFIDA.
6) Collect Data from EveryForeign Investor: Require reporting for foreign persons with a minority stake in an agricultural land asset, including through ownership tiers or shell companies.
U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Roger Marshall (R-KS), John Fetterman (D -PA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bill Hagerty (R-TN), Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Katie Britt (R-AL), Todd Young (R-IN), and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have also cosponsored the legislation.
The full text of the bill can be found here.
Over the past few years, the United States has experienced a rapid increase in foreign investment in the agricultural sector, particularly from China. Growing foreign investment in agriculture and other essential industries, like health care and energy, threaten our country’s national security. As Alabama’s voice on the Senate AG Committee, Senator Tuberville has been sounding the alarm about foreign ownership of American farmland and other elements of our food supply chain.
According to USDA data from December 2021, foreign investors own approximately 40.8 million acres of U.S. agricultural land. Foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land increased modestly increased from 2009 to 2015 at an average increase of 0.8 million acres per year. However, since 2017, this number skyrocketed to an annual average of 2.9 million acres. Additionally, between 2010 and 2021, entities or individuals from China increased their ownership of U.S. agricultural land more than twentyfold, from 13,720 acres to 383,935 acres. Alabama has the third-highest amount of foreign-owned agricultural land in the United States, with 1.8 million acres.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.