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Claims About China Buying U.S. Farmland Ignore Important Context
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Claims About China Buying U.S. Farmland Ignore Important Context

It’s true that Chinese investors own about 380,000 acres in the U.S., but other foreign investors own much more land.

Aerial view of cultivated farmland, Imperial Valley, California. (Photo by Jim Wark /Design Pics Editorial/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Claims about Chinese ownership of American agricultural land have spread widely on Facebook in recent weeks, with one post garnering more than 25,000 shares on Facebook. 

The post is mostly true, but is missing important context. Chinese investors do actually own about 380,000 acres of American land. However, this is a relatively small amount of acreage compared to domestic acreage owned by many other foreign countries, and it is not all agricultural land.

A 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) found that 383,935 acres of land—both agricultural and non-agricultural—were owned by investors with ties to China. According to Forbes, approximately 195,000 of those acres were owned directly by Chinese investors or the Chinese government, while the remaining 189,000 were owned by U.S. corporations with Chinese shareholders.

This 383,935 acres represents only about 1 percent of total foreign-owned U.S. land, however, far less than numerous other countries. Canadian investors, for example, own approximately 12.8 million acres—or 31 percent of all foreign-held land—while the Netherlands, Italy, United Kingdom, and Germany own an additional 12.4 million acres collectively. According to the USDA, the U.S. has approximately 2.3 billion acres of overall land area, of which approximately 1.2 billion acres are used for agriculture. Even if all 383,935 acres owned by Chinese investors were farmland, this would only represent around 0.03 percent of total American agricultural land.

A 2021 report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies found that “On a large scale, these [foreign land acquisitions] do not represent a substantial enough portion of food production in the United States to threaten national food security.” These purchases are also regulated by the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, which requires foreign entities to disclose transactions and holdings involving agricultural land to the secretary of agriculture.

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Alex Demas is a fact checker at The Dispatch and is based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining the company in 2023, he worked in England as a financial journalist and earned his MA in Political Economy at King's College London. When not heroically combating misinformation online, Alex can be found mixing cocktails, watching his beloved soccer team Aston Villa lose a match, or attempting to pet stray cats.