The Federal Government Has a Flawed System for Tracking Land Purchases Made by Overseas Entities

( — A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to reliably and adequately provide data on the purchase of agricultural land by foreign investors to the relevant agencies, the Washington Examiner reported.

The report, released last week, concluded that the USDA failed to promptly provide the information to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), as well as federal agencies like the Defense Department and Treasury.

The GAO recommended that the Agriculture Department develop a real-time data system that enables it to “collect, track, and share the data better.” The Department of Defense also noted in the report that it required more timely and specific data on the purchase of land by foreign investors.

The USDA estimated that foreign investment in US agricultural land increased to approximately 40 million acres in 2021.

The GAO report included six recommendations to improve reporting, five of which the Agriculture Department agreed with.

The report recommended that the USDA create a process to provide timely and detailed information to CFIUS. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency administration must clarify specific instructions to county employees on how to complete their responsibilities under the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act. Leaders of the Farm Production and Conservation Business Center and leaders of the FSA must jointly analyze their ability to adhere to the requirements of the Consolidated Appropriations Act.

The focus on foreign investment in US agricultural land has increased in recent years, especially concerning China.

Republican lawmakers have repeatedly called on the Biden administration to investigate the threat to national security from Chinese entities purchasing US farmland and have urged USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to take this issue more seriously.

In a 2022 report, the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission suggested that the purchase of land near US military installations by foreign entities “may require additional monitoring.” The report said that with more Chinese investors purchasing land, CFIUS must “safeguard vital military assets.”

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