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Foreigners Now Own 14.8 Million Acres of U.S. Farm, Forest Land With PM-Foreign Farmers-List

April 22, 1992

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Foreign investors expanded their interests in U.S. farm and forest land last year to nearly 15 million acres, the Agriculture Department reports.

But that total still accounts for only slightly more than 1 percent of all the privately owned agricultural land in the United States, according to USDA.

″Holdings have remained small and relatively steady from 1981 through 1991, fluctuating around 1 percent of privately owned agricultural land in the United States,″ John Lee, administrator of USDA’s Economic Research Service, said Tuesday.

As of Dec. 31, foreign interests owned 14.8 million acres of U.S. agricultural lands, USDA said.

About 47 percent of foreign-owned land is held by investors not affiliated with U.S. firms. They expanded their holdings from nearly 5.5 million acres in 1990 to almost 7 million acres in 1991.

The remaining 53 percent of the reported foreign holdings is actually land owned by U.S. corporations, which are required to register their holdings if at least 10 percent of their stock is in the hands of foreign investors.

Those corporations owned 7.8 million acres in 1991, a decline from nearly 9 million acres in 1990.

The shift, however, may not necessarily reflect changes in land holdings but the makeup of a corporation’s investors. A firm’s holdings can show up as foreign-owned one year, but not another, as the company’s stock moves in and out of foreign hands.

David Senter, national director of the American Agriculture Movement, said he is concerned that foreign owners are increasing their holdings of prime U.S. farm and forest land.

″We’re seeing the Japanese increase ownership of ranching land, which we believe is designed to produce beef to ship back to Japan,″ Senter said. ″There’s also quite a bit of foreign ownership trying to get into timber producing land.″

The Japanese account for just 3 percent of the foreign-owned land, while the Canadians lead with 25 percent of the total, USDA said.

But the department’s study shows Japanese investors have expanded their holdings - from 174,587 acres in 1990 to 181,692 in 1991. U.S. corporations with Japanese investors held another 268,367 acres last year.

That’s a decrease from 364,293 acres in 1990, but the decline is due largely to the breakup of a Japanese-backed forestry operation in Maine, a USDA official said.

Senter complained that the foreign owners of U.S. ranching and forest land are the ones who stand to benefit - and not U.S. ranchers or foresters - when the United States pries open new overseas markets for U.S. food or farm products.

″They can avoid actually purchasing from U.S. cattlemen, and they’re moving their own product. We’re seeing more and more of that take place,″ Senter said.

According to USDA, forest land accounts for 49 percent of all foreign-owned acreage; cropland accounts for 17 percent; pasture and other agricultural land, 31 percent; and land not in production, such as homesteads, barns and roads, 3 percent.

Maine leads the country in the amount of land with foreign owners - 2.83 million acres, followed by Texas, with just over 1 million acres.

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