Wall Street is moving to buy up U.S. farmland in hopes that it will be a safe bet to hedge against inflation and concerning economic conditions, according to Reuters.
Investment funds have accumulated over a million acres of farmland in the U.S., a small part of the 900 million acres in the U.S. but significant for the market when looking at the pace of acquisitions, according to Reuters. The move from investors is drawing the concern of some, including lawmakers, who see the quick constraint on supply as a barrier for the next generation of farmers who can’t buy at the elevated price.
The growth of solar generation in Pennsylvania over the last decade owes largely to farmers willing to share their land, a fact that leaves others worried about neighboring property values and future sustainability.
As such, Sen. Doug Mastriano – former gubernatorial candidate and right-wing firebrand who represents a district that spans Franklin and Adams counties – recently introduced a bill limiting the use of farmland for solar development in Pennsylvania. The legislation would prohibit development on prime farming land considered class one or class two by the USDA.
Several states have already banned or are considering banning foreign ownership of farmland from U.S. adversaries such as China, a trend that has its recent roots in North Dakota.
Chinese food manufacturer Fufeng Group purchased 370 acres of land for a corn milling plant in Grand Forks in November 2021.
Ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has risen significantly in the last decade and amounted to 338,000 acres as of 2020, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data.
Since 2010, Chinese nationals have reportedly purchased an additional 75,000 acres of U.S. farmland, according to U.S. Agriculture Department data obtained by the WSJ. Although amounting to less than 1% of all U.S. agricultural land held by foreign citizens, ownership of U.S. farmland by Chinese nationals has received increased scrutiny in recent years following warnings from U.S. government officials claiming that the Chinese government may seek to use land for military and espionage purposes, according to the WSJ.
More than 100 House Republicans are asking a government watchdog to probe foreign investments in U.S. farmland, including those by China, which they say may present national and food security concerns.
Led by Reps. Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania and James Comer of Kentucky, the lawmakers on Saturday called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study foreign farmland ownership and how the U.S. government is monitoring acquisitions, a letter shows. There has been an uptick in foreign investments and ownership, which may be “underreported” due to the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) unreliable data, the Republicans say.
A grant program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will send $20 million to Pennsylvania to restore streams in central Pennsylvania and preserve farmland.
The funding is part of a $200 million initiative, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, “to address on-farm, watershed, and regional natural resource concerns.” The RCPP was created by the 2014 Farm Bill and has sent out almost 600 awards.