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Proposed bill targets foreign agriculture interference

Getty/iStockphoto US Capitol building
FARM Act would add congressional oversite for foreign investments and acquisitions of American companies.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Rep. Ronny Jackson of Texas introduced a bipartisan bill they say would protect America’s agriculture industry from improper investment. The Foreign Adversary Risk Management Act, or “FARM Act,” would bolster the U.S. agriculture industry’s role on the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States. That governmental body is responsible for vetting foreign investments and acquisitions of American companies.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen an alarming increase in foreign purchases of farmland and food companies, particularly by China,” Tuberville said. “These foreign investments are now reaching every piece of the very large puzzle that makes up our agriculture industry, from farming and processing to packaging and shipping. That’s why America’s agriculture community needs to have a permanent seat at the table when our government vets foreign investment in our country.”

Also signing on to the bill as co-sponsors were Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Pete Sessions and Abigail Spanberger.

The FARM Act would make the Secretary of Agriculture a CFIUS member. The bill includes language intended to protect the agriculture industry from foreign control through transactions, mergers, acquisitions, or agreements. Certain agriculture supply chains could be designated as critical infrastructure and critical technologies. USDA and the Government Accountability Office would also be required to report to Congress on current and potential foreign investment in American agriculture.

According to a Dec. 2021 USDA report, foreign interests hold approximately 40 million acres of U.S. agricultural land. That was up more than 2.4 million acres from the previous year. Those holdings account for about 3.1 % of all privately held agricultural land, and 1.8% of all land.

“Today, America faces numerous threats to its national security, and the agricultural industry is no exception,” Rep. Jackson said. “Our adversaries, especially the Chinese Communist Party, continue to increase their presence in America’s food industry and agricultural supply chains. Our national security is dependent on our food security, and we must take significant steps to identify adversaries that are manipulating critical facets of food production in our country.”

Tuberville introduced the bill in Oct. 2021. It was read twice and referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. No further action was taken before Congress adjourned in 2022. Original Senate co-sponsors included Sens. Mike Braun, Kevin Cramer, Roger Marshall, Cynthia Lummis, and Rick Scott.

Sen. Kramer was among several congressional leaders who issued statements re-affirming their support for the bill. The North Dakota Republican says that food security is national security.

“Our government must be diligent in conducting risk assessments of agriculture investments by foreign adversaries – for reasons including geopolitical strategy, U.S. supply chain protection, and support of American farmers and ranchers,” Kramer said.

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TAGS: Legislative
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