Meat & Livestock News

Canada Tops in U.S. Farmland Ownership, Surpassing China

Amidst growing controversy in the United States, a new USDA report has clarified a common misconception: China is not the largest foreign owner of U.S. farmland. Instead, Canada holds this position, owning 32% of foreign-held U.S. farmland, which amounts to 14.2 million acres.

The Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany follow Canada in ownership stakes. These countries collectively possess 29% of foreign-held U.S. farmland, totalling 13 million acres. China’s share is comparatively smaller, owning less than 1% or 349,442 acres.

As of December 31, 2022, foreign entities own 43.4 million acres of U.S. forest and farmland, representing 3.4% of all agricultural land. Of this, 30 million acres are directly foreign-owned, with the rest primarily under long-term leases. Among the directly owned land, 66% is operated by the owners, 14% by tenants or sharecroppers, and 12% managed by others. The remaining 7% is unspecified.

The USDA highlights that the largest Chinese landowners in the U.S. are Brazos Highland and Murphy Brown LLC, the latter owning Smithfield Foods. Brazos Highland owns 102,345 acres, while Smithfield has 97,975 acres.

In Texas, China’s land is often leased for wind energy projects, while in North Carolina and Missouri, land ownership is linked to Smithfield and its pork production contracts. These five states account for 85% of China’s farmland ownership in the U.S.

The issue of foreign-held farmland is gaining political traction, with more states considering bans in 2024. Jim Wiesemeyer, Farm Journal Washington correspondent, notes the complexity and emotional nature of this topic. He mentions concerns in Missouri about the potential negative impact on pork producers contracting with Smithfield.

In Arkansas, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders has ordered Syngenta, a Chinese state-owned agrochemical company, to relinquish its 160-acre research site. Eric Boeck, president of Syngenta Seeds North America, emphasises the importance of local testing for product efficacy, warning that selling the farm could disadvantage Arkansas farmers.

Wiesemeyer also points out the growing trend of solar panel installations on farmland, with companies offering high rents for land use. This trend, he suggests, could significantly impact U.S. farmland use in the coming years.