Two Senate Republicans introduced a bill to stop the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from purchasing American land, arguing that the practice poses a threat to national security.
Dubbed the Securing America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act, Sens. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) cited a 2020 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) saying that foreign individuals and entities held an interest in nearly 37.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural land.
Some 14 states have some laws restricting foreign ownership of land, they said. However, at the federal level, there are no restrictions regarding the private U.S. agricultural land that can be foreign-owned.
“Chinese investments in American farmland put our food security at risk and provide opportunities for Chinese espionage against our military bases and critical infrastructure. Instead of allowing these purchases, the U.S. government must bar the Communist Party from purchasing our land,” Cotton said in a statement last week.
The CCP’s purchases of U.S. farmland, Turberville argued, said is tantamount to “giving our top adversary a foot in the door to purchase land in the United States and undermine our national security,” adding, “I hope my colleagues will recognize the importance of our bill and join the effort to prohibit Chinese Communist Party involvement in America’s agriculture industry.”
Both senators noted that U.S. farmers are rapidly aging, with about a third being over the age of 65. That means millions of acres of American farmland may be up for sale in the near future, the senators added.
Controversy erupted earlier this year as a CCP-linked agribusiness company purchased farmland in North Dakota, which is located within close proximity to a U.S. military base.
“This property is approximately 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, which has led to concern that Fufeng operations could provide cover for PRC [the People’s Republic of China] surveillance or interference with the missions located at that installation, given Fufeng Group’s reported ties to the Chinese Communist Party,” several senators wrote in a July 14 letter addressed to several Biden administration officials.
“Chinese investors’ holdings of U.S. agricultural land surged from 13,720 acres in 2010 to 352,140 acres in 2020,” Cotton’s statement added.
In the House, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced legislation in late June that would bar the purchase of agricultural land—including ranches—by officials affiliated with the CCP.
“If we begin to cede the responsibility for our food supply chain to an adversarial foreign nation, we could be forced into exporting food that is grown within our own borders and meant for our own use,” Newhouse wrote in a press release at the time.
Other than farmland, foreign buyers from China spent $6.1 billion, more than from any other foreign country, on U.S. homes from April 2021 to March, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors (pdf).
Chinese buyers spent an average of more than $1 million per transaction—the highest average among foreign purchases—and up from the $710,400 average from the year before. California was the top destination for their purchases with 31 percent, followed by New York (10 percent), Indiana (7 percent), Florida (7 percent), Oklahoma (5 percent), and Missouri (5 percent).
The report also pointed out that 58 percent of Chinese buyers made all-cash purchases, the third highest behind Canadians (69 percent) and Colombians (65 percent).
Frank Fang contributed to this report.