An internal investigation has found that Joe Biden’s administration is failing to track foreign ownership of U.S. farmland, after it was recently discovered that the second-largest foreign landowner is a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) member.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has not consistently shared timely data on foreign investments in farmland as required under the law, the investigation by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found.
The accountability agency’s report, published Thursday, found that the USDA is not in compliance with the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA), which requires information on foreign land investors to be logged in a database which is part of an annual report to the U.S. Congress.
“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not share timely data on foreign investments in agricultural land collected under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978, as amended (AFIDA),” the GAO report states, adding that this failure has created “potential national security risks.”
The investigative agency said that with the USDA’s “flawed” information-tracking process, it is impossible for them to report “reliable information to Congress or the public about where and how much U.S. agricultural land is held by foreign persons.”
The GAO said it conducted the study after the USDA “estimated” that foreign investment in American agricultural land had grown to “approximately 40 million acres in 2021.”
“These investments may have consequences for U.S. national security,” the report warned. “For example, there may be foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land close to sensitive military installations.”
That report was released soon after the shocking revelation was made that a Chinese billionaire somehow stayed under the government’s radar for nearly a decade as the second-largest foreign owner of U.S. farmland.
According to Land Report, “Tianqiao Chen has been staring us straight in the face for almost a decade.”
In 2015, the CCP member acquired nearly 200,000 acres of Oregon land from Fidelity National Financial Ventures for $85 million — $430 per acre.
“Chen did so via the investment vehicle Whitefish Cascade Forest Resources LLC,” the outlet reported. Oregon tax records revealed in December that the 198,000-acre block is currently owned by Shanda Asset Management LLC, Chen’s company.
Multiple members of Congress immediately demanded increased government accountability. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) told the New York Post that the Biden administration had “dropped the ball” on protecting agricultural land from being bought up by “foreign adversaries.”
However, that particular land purchase was made under the Obama administration and remained hidden during former President Donald Trump’s tenure as well.
“Communist China is purchasing U.S. agricultural land to subvert our sovereignty, undermine our agriculture industry, encroach on our military installations, and upend America’s rural communities,” Stefanik said.
Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) renewed demands for Congress to secure American land in a statement reacting to the news from Land Report:
While we learn more about the specifics around this unfolding situation, it highlights the need for Congress to do more to protect American agricultural security and prevent our foreign adversaries from controlling our country’s food supply while also gaining access to land near sensitive military sites.
Upon the damning conclusion from the latest GAO report, even more politicians have voiced their concerns.
“This report confirms one of our worst fears: that not only is the USDA unable to answer the question of who owns what land and where, but that there is no plan by the department to internally reverse this dangerous flaw that affects our supply chain and economy,” Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) said in a statement. “Food security is national security, and we cannot allow foreign adversaries to influence our food supply while we stick our heads in the sand.”
This report confirms our worst fear: the USDA has no idea who owns what land and where, and they have no plan to rectify it.
Food security is national security, and we cannot allow foreign adversaries to influence our food supply while we stick our heads in the sand. https://t.co/cUXs2fsGi1
— Rep. Dan Newhouse (@RepNewhouse) January 19, 2024
He vowed to “introduce measures aimed at fixing USDA’s internal reporting and data management to identify to Congress, and the American people, exactly who is investing in the over 40 million acres of U.S. farm land reported to have ties to foreign actors.”