We rely on your tax-deductible donations to support our mission. Donate online →
Most Policy Initiative logo
Browse Research TOPICS

Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Lands

Written by Dr. Tomotaroh Granzier-Nakajima
Published on January 18, 2023
Research Highlights

Missouri statute restricts foreign businesses from acquiring agricultural land if the total foreign-owned agricultural land exceeds one percent of all agricultural land in the state.

3.1% of agricultural land in the U.S. and 1.2% in Missouri is foreign-owned.

Foreign ownership of agricultural land has a negligible effect on land or rental value.

Federal and state regulations take varied approaches on foreign-owned agricultural land.

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.

  • Reporting is not strictly enforced, and records are sometimes incomplete or inaccurate (Hettinger 2017).

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.

3.1% of agricultural land in the US and 1.2% in Missouri is foreign-owned.

The AFIDA defines agricultural land as land that is used for either farming, ranching, or timber production (USDA 2 n.d.).

  • Foreign entities owned 40 million acres of agricultural land in the U.S. in 2021. This is 3.1% of all privately held agricultural land.
  • Most foreign-owned agricultural land is forest or timber land (47%), then cropland (29%), pasture (18%), and other (4.5%).
  • 2% of foreign-owned land is non-agricultural land, including homesteads and houses.

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.).

  • This is a 39,668 acre increase from 2020.
  • The majority is cropland (54%), then pasture (23%), other agricultural land (20%), and forest (3%).

The top three foreign countries in 2016 that owned agricultural land in MO were Italy (56%), China (13%), and Germany (7%) (Table 1).

  • In 2016, Italian wind projects were five of the top six foreign companies that owned MO agricultural land (Table 2; MCIR, n.d.).
  • This data was obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request in 2016 and more recent data is unavailable (MCIR, n.d.).

Table 1. Foreign countries that held agricultural land in Missouri in 2016. Data from (MCIR, n.d.).

Country Acres Percent
 ITALY 185,200 56%
CHINA 43,419 13%
GERMANY 22,997 7%
NEW ZEALAND 18,459 6%
SWITZERLAND 14,844 4%

Table 2. Foreign companies that held agricultural land in Missouri in 2016. Data from (MCIR, n.d.).

Owner Country Acres Percent
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%

Foreign ownership of agricultural land has limited impact on land and rental value.

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.

References

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 

Most Policy Initiative logo
Contact
238 E High St., 3rd Floor
Jefferson City, MO 65101
573-340-5738
info@mostpolicyinitiative.org
Newsletter
© 2023 MOST Policy Initiative | Website design and development by Pixel Jam Digital
chevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram