FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Yahaira Cáceres, Policy Team Manager
National Young Farmers Coalition
Washington D.C. (September 28, 2023) – Yesterday morning, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry held a hearing titled “Foreign Ownership in U.S. Agriculture.” The hearing, chaired by U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and featuring Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.), addresses the critical issue of speculative investments in agricultural land. The hearing covered various topics, including the lack of data on farmland tenure, foreign ownership of farmland, and rising land values driven by non-farming buyers.
National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is dedicated to ensuring a just agricultural future for the next generation of working farmers, emphasizing the need for affordable, quality farmland and the ability to purchase it. We advocate that these are foundational requirements for growers and land stewards nationwide and represent the foremost challenge facing young and diverse farmers today.
“The Issue of corporate ownership of farmland and farm consolidation is very, very important. Especially, as it affects new and young beginning farmers as we look at an aging farmer population. We don’t have high-frequency data on this issue,” said David L. Ortega, Associate Professor of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University. “A survey was recently done by the National Young Farmers Coalition last year. Many thousands of farmers under 40 noted that access to farmland is a critical issue but also challenging given the rising land prices. It’s an issue that needs to be better addressed by having more access to data on farm ownership consolidation, given how fast these trends are changing in the industry.”
As Congress addresses this critical issue, we urge legislators to consider the following critical points and recommendations:
- Most importantly, we need to invest in locally-led solutions that help farmers gain a stronger foothold through secure land tenure and by building robust local food supply chains. We urge Congress to pass the bi-partisan Increasing Land Access, Security, and Opportunities Act (H.R. 3955, S.2340) that provides funding for locally-led land access solutions.
- Rising land values driven by non-farming buyers—both foreign and domestic— are a core component of the land access challenge for young farmers and ranchers. We strongly believe that foreign and domestic corporations’ speculative investment in land as a financial asset is vital to addressing this issue. The Farmland for Farmers Act (S. 2583) would build on existing state legislation to regulate foreign and domestic corporate purchases nationwide.
- In addition, we need increased transparency and strong data collection on farmland concentration, consolidation, and corporate foreign ownership, as well as specific barriers for historically underserved farmers and ranchers. Congress should authorize mandatory, recurring funding for land-access related data collection, reporting, and research, including the Tenure, Ownership, and Transition of Agricultural Land (TOTAL) survey.
- Legislation targeting specific countries and individuals from those countries does not address the core threat young farmers face and creates the potential for negative, unjust consequences. We urge lawmakers to craft policy that responds to the data and tackles the issues of rising land values holistically.
A significant portion of agricultural land is leased, and non-farming landlords own a substantial percentage. With approximately 40% of U.S. agricultural land expected to change hands in the next decade, the hearing highlights the growing trend of corporate ownership, which has contributed to historically high land prices.
“Equitable access to affordable, quality farmland is the next generation of farmers’ top challenge. Speculative investments in land as a financial asset—by both foreign and domestic corporations—are directly and negatively impacting the ability of young and Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) farmers to compete in agricultural real estate markets,” said Holly Rippon-Butler, Land Policy Director with the National Young Farmers Coalition.
“Farmland needs to stay in the hands of local family farmers, not absentee investors, private equity firms, and multinational corporations which are focused on shareholder profits rather than supporting the next generation of young and beginning farmers,” said Jordan Treakle, National Programs and Policy Coordinator with the National Family Farm Coalition. “Whether it’s Bill Gates’ buy-up of farmland or foreign speculative investments in rural America, the common denominator driving farmland consolidation is the corporate structures underpinning these land grabs. Senator Booker’s Farmland for Farmers Act would limit these corporate purchases by both domestic and non-U.S. entities and is a key proposal for strengthening U.S. agricultural land governance.”
We thank Senators Stabenow, Boozman, and the Senate Agriculture Committee for their leadership in holding this hearing. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to craft legislation that responds to the many challenges the next generation of farmers face, including secure land access.
The National Young Farmers Coalition (Young Farmers) is a grassroots network changing policy and shifting power to equitably resource the new generation of working farmers.