There are no federal regulations that fully prohibit foreign entities from owning agricultural land in the U.S. The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) requires foreign entities to disclose foreign ownership or investment of U.S. agricultural land to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA 1 n.d.), who publishes yearly summaries of foreign ownership.
Foreign entities are not eligible for certain disaster assistance programs such as the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-Raised Fish Program; Livestock Forage Disaster Program; Livestock Indemnity Program; and Tree Assistance Program (Johnson 2021).
No state has fully prohibited foreign entities from owning agricultural land (Johnson 2021). A majority of states have passed laws that allow foreign ownership of agricultural land (Figure 1). States take varied approaches to restrict foreign ownership. States may differ based on restrictions that limit the amount or how long land may be owned; differences in the definition of agricultural land; distinctions between private and public land or between resident and nonresident aliens; inheritance; and enforcement and penalties (Johnson 2021).
Missouri statute, RSM0 442.571, restricts alien or foreign businesses from acquiring agricultural land if the total foreign-owned agricultural land exceeds 1% of all agricultural land in the state.
The AFIDA defines agricultural land as land that is used for either farming, ranching, or timber production (USDA 2 n.d.).
Figure 1. State laws on the foreign ownership of agricultural land. Figure from (Johnson 2021).
Since 2015, foreign ownership has increased annually by 2.2 million acres on average (USDA 2 n.d.). From 2011—2022, foreign ownership of cropland increased the most, by 6.9 million acres (140%), then forest land by 5.4 million acres (39%), and pastureland by 1.3 million acres (22%). The changes in pasture and cropland are mainly due to foreign-owned wind companies.
In general, a small percentage of privately owned land is held by foreign entities in each state (less than 7%) (USDA 2 n.d.). Maine is an exception, where 20% of privately held agricultural land is owned by foreign investors. Hawaii (9.2%) and Washington (7.2%) are the second and third highest.
Missouri: In 2021, foreign investors held 433,213 acres of agricultural land in Missouri, 1.2% of privately held agricultural land (USDA 2 n.d.).
The top three foreign countries in 2016 that owned agricultural land in MO were Italy (56%), China (13%), and Germany (7%) (Table 1).
Table 1. Foreign countries that held agricultural land in Missouri in 2016. Data from (MCIR, n.d.).
Table 2. Foreign companies that held agricultural land in Missouri in 2016. Data from (MCIR, n.d.).
|ROCK CREEK WIND PROJECT||Italy||63,963||19%|
|WHITE CLOUD WIND PROJECT||Italy||50,427||15%|
|MURPHY BROWN OF MISSOURI (SMITHFIELD FOODS)||China||42,716||13%|
|SHUTEYE CREEK WIND PROJECT||Italy||22,847||7%|
|BLUE STAR WIND PROJECT||Italy||16,854||5%|
|OUTLAW WIND PROJECT||Italy||15617||5%|
Counties with and without foreign-owned agricultural land do not have significant differences in agricultural land value or rental rates (USDA 2 n.d.). There is no consistent relationship between the value of land or rental rates, and whether a county is in a state with restrictive regulations on foreign ownership of agricultural land. More research is needed to understand the effects of foreign ownership of agricultural land on local jobs and economies.
Hettinger, J. (2017, September 25). USDA fails to monitor foreign owners of farmland. Investigate Midwest. Retrieved January 17, 2023, from https://investigatemidwest.org/2017/09/25/usda-has-not-enforced-act-tracking-foreign-investment-in-farmland-since-2014/
Johnson, R. (2021). (rep.). Foreign Farmland Ownership in the United States. Congressional Research Service (CRS). Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11977.
Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting (MCIR). (n.d.). Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Database. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from http://apps.investigatemidwest.org/afida/?fbclid=IwAR1a9jOuBv4XgkEbCE7BCjMMuaultwlJ_DDC566kPqE3-kMJOtdJeA3GY7g
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA 1). (n.d.). Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA). Farm Service Agency. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/economic-and-policy-analysis/afida/
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA 2). (n.d.). (rep.). Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land Through December 31, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2023, from https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/EPAS/PDF/2021_afida_annual_report_through_12_31_2021.pdf.