Moolenaar, Johnson offer bill ramping up oversight of foreign ownership of U.S. farmland

Bipartisan legislation cosponsored on Nov. 21 by U.S. Reps. John Moolenaar (R-MI) and Dusty Johnson (R-SD) aims to increase the transparency and oversight of foreign ownership of American farmland.

“Farmland is a vital asset for our food supply, economy, and national security,” Rep. Moolenaar said on Tuesday. “It is more important than ever that we have the structures in place to review and assess foreign ownership.”

“This bill puts provisions in place to give a more detailed analysis of who is buying our farmland so we can protect our rural communities, producers, food security, and national security,” added Rep. Johnson.

The Farmland Security Act of 2023, H.R. 6469, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D-WA), would amend the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 to remove the limitation on the amount of a civil penalty for a foreign-owned shell corporation, according to the text of the bill. 

“I am proud to introduce the Farmland Security Act to help protect Michigan farms and our food supply,” said Rep. Moolenaar, the lead original cosponsor of H.R. 6469. “This legislation promotes transparency to the American people on foreign shell corporations and increases penalties for foreign entities failing to accurately report their land ownership.”

Rep. Johnson also pointed out that America’s farmland is highly sought after by U.S. producers and individuals and companies around the world. “If our ag land is sold into the wrong hands, we could face threats to our food security and national security,” he said.

If enacted, H.R. 6469 would help ensure all foreign investors and shell companies that buy American agricultural land report their holdings, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers, and it would strengthen penalties for landowners who evade filing, while also investing in research to better understand the impacts of this ownership.

Additionally, the measure would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct an annual compliance audit to ensure accuracy and provide annual training to state and county level USDA staff on identifying non-reporting foreign-owned agricultural land, the summary says.