The Threat of Foreign Ownership of U.S. Farmlands

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Steve Shenk

Over the past few years, farmland values in America have continued to rise and in some cases to record levels. Take a look at a local newspaper from the heartland and you will see farmland auction listings on the increase.

Nominal farmland values have nearly doubled since 2000 and in some of the more fertile areas of the country such as Iowa and Illinois, land prices have topped $10,000 an acre.

The causes for the selling of America’s farmland are multi-faceted. At its most rudimentary level, many Americans are opting out of rural life. Farms that have been in the family for generations are seeing the family patriarch calling it a day. His children, often in their 50s or 60s, are not interested in the rigorous demands of running a farm. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren are dispersed across the nation. In a nutshell, there are farms but no one who wants to farm.

Enter the institutional investors who buy farmland as a “hedge” against inflation and an asset that does not move in sync with other markets. With buyers lining up at the door, farmland heirs are choosing to sell their inherited farmland to these investors and with demand at its highest, it would appear to be a wise financial move.

Now you may be asking yourself why should you care?

In addition to the institutional investors, a number of U.S. farmlands are be purchased by foreign countries. As commodity supplies tighten and grain prices rise, countries planning for their future are eyeing the U.S. with its world-leading exports of many grains such as corn, soybeans, and wheat.

These foreign countries are seeing within their own borders population increases, food shortages, or both. By swiping up some of the most fertile and productive land in the world, these foreign countries are strategically placing themselves in the driver’s seat when it comes to the world’s food supply.
And the United States, like a short-sighted trust fund baby, is selling off their financial future along with their source of food for a quick grab of cash today.

Foreign ownership of farmland is almost double what it was twenty years ago. In fact since 2004, foreign ownership of American soil has grown by almost thirty percent. Countries like China, Japan, and South Korea are purchasing our farmland to use for exporting food to their home markets and as China increases production of biofuels and meat for its expanding population, this problem will only continue to grow. All of this leaves you and I with the very real issue of local food security. What will happen when the U.S. can not produce the food it needs to feed its citizens?

Now this isn’t meant to add fuel to a xenophobic fire, but to serve as a wake-up call to all of us. And that call is this: You and you alone are responsible for your food supply. If others choose to sell off what we need to produce food while our government turns a blind eye, there is not much you can do to change their minds. What you can do however, is educate yourself and understand the domino effect that trends like this cause. (Trends which are glossed over by the mainstream media or more often ignored completely.) By choosing what you consume intellectually, as well as nutrionally, you can prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

You can understand how something such as foreign ownership of our country’s farmlands will impact your ability to feed your family. With that understanding, you can take steps today to secure your future and gain peace of mind.

This article was posted: Monday, July 9, 2012 at 3:26 pm







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