Kristi Noem’s pal Charles Herbster said something to his gropies at a Trump rally yesterday about stopping China from buying any more Nebraska farm land.
Herbster likely has no more intention to do anything about foreign ownership of farm land than Governor Noem, who let another 50,000 acres of South Dakota agricultural land slide into foreign investors’ hands in 2020. According to the USDA, at the end of 2020, foreign investors held 356,579 acres of farm land in South Dakota, a 16% increase over 2019. Nebraska saw foreign farm holdings increase 33%. Nationwide, foreign holdings of farmland increased just under 7% in 2019.
The Chinese are far from the top investors. In South Dakota, the Canadians hold 35% of the foreign-controlled farm land, while the British hold 18%. In Nebraska, Canadians hold 72% of the foreign-controlled farm land, and the Italians hold another 21%. China holds less than 1% of foreign-held agricultural land nationwide; in 2020, the USDA reports just one Chinese investor acquiring three parcels totaling 2,527 acres in the United States, while 97 Canadian investors snapped 5,151 new parcels totaling almost 1.9 million acres.
Rural activists understand that land is better managed by folks who have to live with the consequences of land management. But do Herbster, Noem, and other Republicans ever say no to billionaires from any country investing in the prairie?
For years, Joe Maxwell has lobbied for more states to enact laws to monitor foreign investment in farmland. The president and cofounder of Farm Action… said foreign investment, corporate investment, and investment by billionaires concerns him the most. He contends these entities aren’t looking at the production value of farmland. They view it as an investment, he said, which in turn drives up prices for farmers.
“We want everyone to think about, ‘Who do you want to be your farmer?’” Maxwell said. “If you’re happy with Bayer/Monsanto—a German corporation—being your farmer. Or Saudi Arabia. Or China. Then OK. But if you’re not OK with that, then you ought to care about this issue. We ought to make sure the next generation of farmers are individuals who will care for the land for future generations and care about producing safe and healthy food for their neighbors” [Jonathan Hettinger, “US Farmland Increasingly Controlled by Foreign Investment,” Civil Eats, 2022.04.22].
“Tough on China” sounds good at rallies for the red-hatters, but when foreign money comes calling, don’t expect folks like Herbster and Noem to turn that money down.