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How much US farmland does China own?

  • In terms of acreage, China ranks 18th among countries that own U.S. land
  • Total Chinese ownership has increased fivefold over the past decade
  • Canadian investors hold the most American agricultural land

Farmland is seen in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, on November 8, 2022. (Photo by Branden EASTWOOD / AFP) (Photo by BRANDEN EASTWOOD/AFP via Getty Images)

(NewsNation) — Chinese investors own just a fraction of all foreign-owned American agricultural land, but their holdings have significantly increased in recent years, jumping fivefold over the past decade.

As of 2021, Chinese entities and individuals owned about 384,000 acres of U.S. agricultural land, less than 1% of all U.S. agricultural land held by foreign persons, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

About half of that acreage is owned by 85 Chinese investors, which may be an individual, company or the government. The other half is held by 62 American corporations with Chinese shareholders.

Most Chinese holdings — over 70% of the total acreage — are concentrated in the American South.

Of the more than 100 countries listed by the USDA, China ranks 18th in total ownership, behind smaller nations like Denmark (856,000 acres) and Luxembourg (802,000 acres).

China’s foreign investment in agriculture globally has increased in recent years, including in the United States.

From 2019 to 2021, Chinese U.S. agricultural land ownership jumped 55% from 247,000 acres to 384,000. That’s a significant uptick compared to the period between 2016 and 2019 when total Chinese ownership increased by less than 1%. Just a decade ago, Chinese investors held less than 70,000 acres in the U.S.

That trend has led some lawmakers to raise national security concerns. Earlier this year, plans by a Chinese company to build a corn mill in North Dakota were scrapped after pushback from locals and military officials.

As of 2021, foreign entities and individuals held roughly 40 million acres of U.S. agricultural land — about 3% of all privately held agricultural land, per the USDA. That acreage includes both forest land and farmland.

Five countries account for approximately two-thirds of all foreign-owned U.S. agricultural land, each of whom are allies.

Canadian investors own 31% of all foreign-held land, followed by investors from the Netherlands (12%), Italy (7%), the United Kingdom (6%) and Germany (6%).

Of the states with the most foreign-held agricultural land, Texas (5.3 million acres) leads the way. In percentage terms, Maine is at the front, as over 20% of its private agricultural land is owned by foreign investors, according to the USDA.

There are some limitations to the data. For example, sales of foreign-held U.S. farmland aren’t included, and a significant proportion of foreign-held acres (7.5%) were for “Country Not Listed,” according to the Congressional Research Service.


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