By Leslie Holloway
In the 1970s, Missouri and several other states adopted laws prohibiting the ownership of farmland by foreign entities.
These laws were prompted by concerns that increasing foreign investment in American farmland could compromise our national security and domestic food production capabilities.
Missouri’s prohibition did not apply to farmland used for non-farming purposes and foreign owners who became “bona fide” residents of the United States.
Missouri Farm Bureau has had longstanding policy adopted by members supporting the state’s prohibition on foreign ownership of Missouri farmland.
However, last year a provision enacted into law as part of a larger bill amended Missouri’s prohibition to allow foreign ownership of up to one percent of Missouri farmland.
One percent might not seem like much, but it is significant given the current worldwide interest in snatching up productive land.
Globally many foreign interests are in the market for farmland and agricultural businesses. Countries such as China, Saudi Arabia and South Korea that have financial resources but lack productive land are actively seeking farmland and agricultural facilities.
Last year’s acquisition of global pork producer Smithfield Foods by Shuanghui International set a record for the largest buyout of an American company by a Chinese company. This transaction involved assets in more than a dozen states, including an estimated 50,000 acres of Missouri farmland.
Farmland is one of our nation’s most precious resources, and total farmed acreage is declining.
The USDA’s 2012 Ag Census revealed that since 2007 Missouri has lost three percent of its farmland. This trend combined with growing global demand magnifies the need to vigilantly protect this resource for future generations.
Missouri’s law prohibiting foreign ownership of farmland must be reinstated without delay. Missouri Farm Bureau is working this legislative session to reinstate the prohibition of foreign ownership of farmland in Missouri. As proposed, new foreign ownership after enactment of the bill would be prohibited.