Americans have been left in shock and dismay with the realization that some of our government agencies are not being held responsible for protecting our precious farm land from foreign adversaries. We have seen all too clearly what foreign rivals are capable of, only to find out our own regulatory body was turning a blind eye to their shenanigans. It is deeply concerning and frustrating to think that USDA had all the power necessary to stop them but failed to act. Now there are so many questions left un-answered.
The recent revelation that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had failed to implement penalties for individuals who failed to report foreign investments in American agricultural land has drawn an unflattering spotlight onto the organization. According to information obtained, the number of reports had increased sharply over several years while action was neither taken nor apparently contemplated by officials within the USDA. Given the current geo-political climate and long-term implications of foreign involvement in one of the nation’s major resources, this raises more concern towards an already not trusted government.
Town Hall reports, according to an internal USDA memo — obtained by Agri-Pulse through a Freedom of Information Act request — the USDA has not enforced penalties for failure to report foreign acquisitions of American agricultural lands for years, despite the fact that foreign acquisition disclosures “have increased sharply.” More than two dozen Republicans are demanding answers now.
A letter sent to Biden’s USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday led by House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) notes “deep concerns” about the memo’s revelations and criticizes the USDA for demonstrating a “complete lack of accountability and oversight of foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land.”
Her letter, signed by more than 25 House Republicans, explains that the Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) requires that any foreign acquisition of agricultural lands be disclosed to the Secretary of Agriculture and to Congress.”
In an investigation by Investigation TV, it was revealed we do not know how much land foreign nations own on our own soil.
The USDA Farm Service Agency disclosure handbook states that penalties of up to 25 percent of the market value of the foreign person’s interest in the land can be imposed for failing to report these disclosures, late filings, or incomplete, misleading, or false information in reports.
Stefanik’s letter explains that despite a surge in disclosures between 2015 and 2018, USDA didn’t assess any penalties for failure to report foreign acquisitions of U.S. agricultural land during this time period, and this failure to report wasn’t included in USDA’s annual report on AFIDA.
The USDA has until April 1 to respond to the queries, but the damage has, largely, already been done, so the answers may not be entirely satisfactory.
It is a frightening thought; our own American land being sold off to foreign companies, putting our national security and even economic security at risk. While transactions like this can definitely be beneficial for the U.S., selling off land should only occur in circumstances where significant profits are made by our nation, not other countries. When countries that wish us harm profit off of us without returning any kind of substantial favor or benefit, then it’s time to take action and protect ourselves from such exploitative behavior – especially when it comes to something as important as our land.
Let’s continue this conversation, in the comments below.