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Garden Guru

Sound the alarm

Jim Boxberger Jr.
Posted 10/14/22

A few weeks ago while flipping through channels on TV, I stumbled upon a report on RFD TV, about farmland in the United States being bought up by China. Remember back on September 22, 1985, the first …

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Garden Guru

Sound the alarm


A few weeks ago while flipping through channels on TV, I stumbled upon a report on RFD TV, about farmland in the United States being bought up by China. Remember back on September 22, 1985, the first Farm Aid concert took place at Memorial Stadium on the University of Illinois campus. It featured more than 40 acts, among them organizers Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp and Neil Young. The purpose was to raise money and awareness of the plight of the American farmer. Large mid-western farms were going bankrupt at an alarming rate mostly due to extremely high interest rates on money that farmers would need to borrow every spring to get the crops planted and then repay when the harvest came in. 

With interest rates back then running from 12 to 23 percent depending on the type of loan, that ate up any profit margin farmers could hope to have. We don't seem to hear about farms going bankrupt anymore. Why, better management, lower interest rates, less competition after the bankruptcies of the past? No, troubled farms today are being quietly bought out by Chinese concerns before the banks and bankruptcy get involved. 

In September of 2013, the President of the People’s Republic of China and General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, Xi Jinping, announced China’s “grand political-economic project,” now known as the Belt and Road Initiative. Since that time, China’s American agricultural land holdings have increased over tenfold, and at the beginning of 2020, investments from China held two billion dollars worth of American agricultural farmland. Already, six states have laws banning foreign ownership of farmland. Those states are Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota and Oklahoma State, but restrictions on Chinese land ownership can be circumvented by Chinese investors buying large U.S. corporations that own agricultural land.

For example, Smithfield Foods founded in Smithfield, Virginia, in 1936, was acquired in 2013 by Hong Kong-based WH Group. No major news outlet is even giving this issue lip service and after I saw the RFD report, I had to dig to find out more information. In May of this year, Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) released the following statement in advance of introducing the "Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act". This legislation would prohibit the purchase of public or private agricultural land in the United States by foreign nationals associated with the Government of the People’s Republic of China. 

Additionally, the legislation would prohibit the same associations from participating in any United States Department of Agriculture programs except food safety inspections. The USDA programs he was referring to are all the farm subsidies that the USDA gives to large corporate farms each year. Needless to say, since Rep. Newhouse is a republican this legislation went nowhere. I believe our taxpayer dollars are currently going to subsidize these Chinese farms and no one is talking about this because the republicans and democrats are so far divided. 

There are multiple reasons why I believe China owning our farms is a bad idea, but this week let's just talk about the trade deficit as that has been in the news. Every year we keep hearing that the trade deficit with China is going up. We are buying more from them than they are from us. Now although imports from China have increased in the last ten years, it is the amount of exports that have gone down that is causing the increasingly larger gap. We export mostly food to China, are they eating less or have less people? The answer is no, but food that China produces here and just sends home, doesn't count as trade as it is already owned by China. See the problem now?

 Farm profits used to be made by U.S. farmers and kept here in the United States, now the profits and the food are all going to China and they are getting subsidies from the USDA to boot. Our US farmers are the best in the world, but while Washington is busy playing the blame game for everything from the border crisis to Russia collusion, nothing is even being addressed. We need to let our elected officials know how we feel and I encourage everyone to send a message to our State Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (contact info can be found on their website). I will have more on this issue next week.


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