2020 presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) took aim at an issue near and dear to the hearts of farmers across the nation this week when she denounced the practice of foreign entities buying up American farmlands.
During an Iowa forum on Saturday, Iowa Farmers Union member Barbara Leach brought up an important issue.
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Foreign corporations have been purchasing American lands, especially farms, thus taking the land away from already struggling American farmers who could put it to use for the American people.
“There’s Chinese Smithfield, Germany’s Bayer, Brazil’s JBS,” Leach pointed out. “We can make a long list. My question to you is: What would you do about it? What can be done?”
Warren talks the talk and walks the walk when it comes to protecting the American people, so it came as no surprise that she opposes the practice. But what is surprising is that foreign-owned companies have bought so much land in our nation that they now own what amounts to an entire state.
“Right now, the farmland that is already in foreign ownership, if it were all put in one place, is the size of Virginia, and that not only creates a problem for farming communities and for our food security, it creates a threat to the safety and the defense of the United States of America,” Warren warned.
According to Modern Farmer in 2017, “between 2004 and 2014 – the latest decade covered by the USDA data – foreign ownership of American farmland has doubled to 27.3 million acres.”
At the time, the acreage amounted to the size of Tennessee. Clearly, that number has gone up in just the last couple of years.
Some foreign land ownership in America is harmless and actually very helpful. For example, the Netherlands and Canada lease farmland for wind farms, which provide income for American farmers and provide energy for the rest of us. It’s a win-win. But nations like China and Saudi Arabia are getting in on the act as well, which could pose a future threat.
“The primary concerns about foreign holdings of American agricultural land are many, and come from both farmers and state governments,” Modern Farmer writes. “There are fears that foreign nations could drive up the price of food, or force out American farmers. And once owned by foreign entities, Americans might not be able to secure that land again. That kind of stuff hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only been in recent years that foreign ownership of agricultural land has spiked, and the total acreage owned is set to continue to rise.”
Clearly, something needs to be done to protect American land. And Warren plans to do just that.
“Iowa has the right idea,” Warren wrote in a proposal released ahead of the forum. “It passed a law prohibiting foreign individuals or entities from purchasing farmland for the purpose of farming. I support a national version of that law, and as president, I will use all available tools to restrict foreign ownership of American agriculture companies and farmland.”
Again, American lands being purchased by nations whose goal is to make money but help the American people at the same time is acceptable, especially by allies. But more hostile nations that are only interested in their own benefit over the interests of the American people should not be able to wantonly snap up our country in bits and pieces. Beneficial investments are welcome, but our country should not be for sale.
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