Biden Administration officials expressed tentative support for efforts in Congress to restrict ownership of U.S. farmland by foreign adversaries during a hearing of the House Select Committee on U.S.-CCP Competition.
State, Defense, and Commerce officials came under repeated fire over the president’s strategy on China, but not on PRC ownership of U.S. farmland, where there was more agreement.
Washington State Rep. Dan Newhouse on House legislation to broaden control over such ownership through the Treasury-chaired Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS. Newhouse, “If enacted, would authorize larger jurisdictions over land purchases by foreign military adversaries in our country. Are there other factors that we should be considering in this effort to get a handle on foreign purchases of agricultural land in the United States by adversaries?”
Commerce Assistant Secretary for Export Administration Thea Rozman Kendler said, “This is certainly something that we’re tracking and paying a great deal of attention to. I think we need to refer you to the Department of the Treasury for further detail on how they are looking at the question of agricultural land in the CFIUS process.”
While the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Ely Ratner was a bit more direct. Ratner, “We’ll have to take a closer look at the specific legislation, but absolutely, efforts to prevent adversarial ownership of sensitive land, industry, and sectors and biotechnology is one worth taking a careful look at.”
Parallel Senate legislation requires USDA to have a permanent seat on CFIUS, which reviews national security impacts of foreign investments—including land buys near sensitive military sites, a concern heightened by China’s spy balloon flyover this year.