A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is looking for accountability regarding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failure to conduct oversight of foreign acquisition of United States agricultural land, as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is buying up land across the county.
The bipartisan group of House lawmakers wants accountability for the USDA’s failure to properly oversee the foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land across the country through the Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) of 1978. The lawmakers are demanding answers from USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack as to why he turned a blind eye to the threat foreign acquisition causes to local farmers, rural communities, and United States national security.
AFIDA requires that any “foreign person who acquires, disposes of, or holds an interest in United States agricultural land must disclose such transactions and holdings to the Secretary of Agriculture” within 90 days after the date of each transaction.
An internal USDA memo obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Agri-Pulse revealed that the agency had a lack of accountability and oversight of foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land. The memo indicated:
Failure to report, late-filed reports, or incomplete, misleading, or false information can result in a penalty of up to 25 percent of the market value of the foreign person’s interest in the land. The data collected is used to develop an annual report to Congress on foreign investment in U.S. agriculture.
Due to limited staff (and a new program manager), no penalties were assessed between 2015-18 as the top priority was making sure the annual report to Congress was as accurate as possible… [Emphasis added.]
The internal memo also indicated that, as of December 31, 2020, foreign persons have an interest in 37.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural, which is about 2.9 percent of all privately-held agricultural land and 1.7 percent of all land in the United States. Chinese primary investors alone own 325,686 acres in 27 states, which is “slightly less than 1 percent of foreign-held agricultural acres.”
However, the group of lawmakers noted that during the same time, “USDA did not assess a single penalty for failure to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land” and that the “lapse of accountability was not included in USDA’s AFIDA annual report to Congress during that timeframe.”
The lawmakers stated that food security is national security and noted, “We cannot allow failures to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land to go unpunished.” They are requesting answers to a wide range of questions and unredacted correspondence regarding the USDA’s failure to assess penalties.
The bipartisan group of lawmakers on the letter includes Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Mike Flood (R-NE), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Harriet Hageman (R-WY), Don Bacon (R-NE), Nick Langworthy (R-NY), Jason Smith (R-MO), John Rutherford (R-FL), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Barry Moore (R-AL), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Jim Baird (R-IN), Mary Miller (R-IL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Mike Bost (R-IL).
Jacob Bliss is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JacobMBliss.
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