LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Is foreign land ownership a potential threat to food security in the United States? Probably not, said a Michigan State University professor.
David Ortega, MSU faculty laureate and associate professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, gave expert testimony on Sept. 27 to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry’s hearing on foreign investment in U.S. agriculture.
Ortega explained 3.1% of privately owned U.S. land are foreign holdings, 47% is forestland; 29% is dedicated to crops; and 22% is used as pasture or other agriculture land.
“Contrary to popular belief, foreign governments themselves don’t typically own U.S. agricultural land,” Ortega said.
So which countries are associated with that foreign-owned land?
The majority is owned by Canadian interests (31%). Another 31%, combined, is owned by stakeholders from the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany. Stakeholders from China, according to Ortega, own a little less than 1% of all foreign-owned agricultural land.
Though Chinese ownership of U.S. agricultural land has drawn attention because of high-profile acquisitions and increasing tension between the two, Chinese-owned U.S. farmland accounts for just 0.03% of all privately owned U.S. agricultural land.
“The government of the People’s Republic of China, like most other governments, does not directly own any agricultural land in the United States,” Ortega said.
The bottom line? Ortega said that foreign ownership of U.S. farmland does not threaten the ability of the U.S. to produce food.
“The U.S. is not only self-sufficient in basic food production, but we also provide food for many across the world. Food insecurity arises in the U.S. not because of production deficits, but because of issues of affordability and access,” Ortega said.