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Illinois congresswoman says U.S. farmland is under threat of foreign control

Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) speaks at a Donald Trump rally in the Quincy area on June 26, 2022.

CHAMPAIGN – Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL15) on Monday introduced a bill that would place a five-year moratorium on U.S. land purchases by foreign nationals.

The Saving American Farms from Adversaries Act is Miller’s first bill of the 118th congress.

According to Miller, foreign investment in U.S. farmland has tripled during the past 10 years. She claims that in Illinois, foreign companies and individuals have purchased 853,813 acres of agricultural land.

The second-term Republican representative is joining a growing chorus of lawmakers who are characterizing the purchase of U.S. land by foreign entities as a threat to national security.

And though the proposed legislation would bar all foreign nationals from purchasing land in the U.S., Miller cites China as a particular concern.  

“The Chinese Communist Party is attempting to buy land in the United States, with an emphasis on farmland to gain strategic leverage over the United States,” she states in the bill.

According to the latest data from the Agriculture Department, China accounted for less than 1% of foreign-owned U.S. agricultural land at the end of 2021. The largest share was held by Canadian investors, who accounted for 31%.

Still, concern over ceding control of U.S. agricultural assets to Chinese interests has been mounting among members of both political parties.

In 2013, a Chinese company purchased the Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, one of the world’s largest processors of pork. Half of the world’s pork is consumed by China, and some U.S. officials worried that the acquisition of Smithfield would give China too much control over supply.

The deal eventually went through and in 2017, the same Chinese company, WH Group, went on to acquire Clougherty Packing, the largest pork producer in California.

Miller’s congressional office didn’t respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with Breitbart News, she said her proposed legislation was a response to China “attempting to buy land in our country to gain strategic leverage over the United States and our food supply.”

Miller has used the bill’s introduction to levy criticism against Democrats and President Joe Biden, whom she has sought to paint as weak on national security, particularly when it comes to China.

On Saturday, she tweeted “Protecting our food sources should be a bipartisan concern.”

In fact, legislation similar to Miller’s is gaining bipartisan and bicameral support. The Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act would place farmland under the purview of the committee that reviews investments for national security concerns.

The FARM Act stops short of an outright ban on purchases of U.S. agricultural land by foreign nationals, but it would mandate that all such transactions be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (Cfius).

The bill would also increase agricultural oversight by adding the Secretary of Agriculture to the panel.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, introduced the bill alongside Republican Rep. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

In a press release, Spanberger said “By bringing the voice of the Secretary of Agriculture to the table, our FARM Act would bring the concerns of farm families and producers to important conversations about the risks of foreign acquisitions and landholdings.”

Picture of Sarah Nardi

Sarah Nardi

Sarah Nardi began her career in print but converted to radio after realizing how much she loved the sound of her own voice. She joined WILL in 2023 time as a reporter at WGLT in Bloomington and as an Arts & Culture columnist with the Chicago Reader.

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