Foreign countries buying up land?! It isn’t the ones you think

Red Herrings and Other Things That Don't Smell Quite Right - United Methodist InsightImagine politicians taking advantage of our ignorance of the facts to score points? Doesn’t take much to imagine does it?

This time it is fear-mongering about China, Russia, Iran and North Korea buying up our farmland.

This is called a red herring, a term from the early 1800s, which was most likely used first by an English journalist, William Cobbett, in a story about a boy who used a red herring to throw hounds off the scent of a hare. He used it as an analogy of how the press is distracted from important domestic matters.

The claim that these countries are buying up our farmland is bogus when one considers that “Canada, not China, is the largest foreign holder of American agricultural land by far (31% vs 1%).” (source)

Jordan Treakle, national programs and policy coordinator of the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC), says –

“If we look at the data on who are the leading investors in farmland, those are U.S.-based individuals and corporations” This includes individuals like Bill Gates, the largest private farmland landholder, and corporations like financial services company TIAA, the largest institutional farmland holder.

The issue is critically important to wanna-be farmers, including young people and others who are being priced out of farmland because of the speculative investing of Gates and other billionaires, retirement management companies like TIAA, and other large investment firms.

There is much to do at the state level to limit the ability of corporations to buy up land. And on a grassroots level, Treakle sees the need to push USDA to support community-based land access initiatives, particularly for new, beginning, and historically underserved farmers, with grants, policy, and pilot projects.

Treakle said, “Only focusing on foreign corporations does not acknowledge the full scale of the problem, and actually risks exacerbating consolidation trends led by domestic multinational corporations that we see in land ownership and vertical integration in areas like food processing.”

Thanks to the National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) and Treakle for this important analysis [full article here]. PHP works with NFFC and other groups in the Stop Land Grabs coalition to fight for land justice. Collective land ownership models, such as the Agrarian Commons, offer ways for beginning and marginalized farmers to get long-term tenure to farmland.

Learn more about the Stop Land Grabs campaign and Agrarian Commons. Coalition partner, Uprooted and Rising, has created a great educational story map on land grabbing. View it here.

On a related topic, to learn about how the Gates Foundation is shaping the future of food in Africa, watch the ‘Rich Appetites’ short video film series from our friends in AgraWatch, a project of the Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ).

Your gifts to the One Great Hour of Sharing and the Hunger Fund allow us to work in coalitions and to support groups like NFFC and the Agrarian Trust, which helps organize Agrarian Commons around the country.

One Response to “Foreign countries buying up land?! It isn’t the ones you think”

  1. George Gore

    Both foreigners and corporations buying up US ag land are red herrings, as foreigners would have a hard time controlling US land if conflict, and corporations are usually closer to the cutting edge of yield efficiency. Is the 31% of US ag land held by Canada mostly for lumber? Family farmers wanting to retire appreciate the modestly higher land prices created by investments if the next generation is not interested. New farmers should be able to get low interest government loans to get started like any other small business.


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