Brown

We know how important farming is in our state: one-in-seven Ohioans depend on agriculture for their jobs.

It’s one reason it would be so dangerous to allow foreign adversaries to buy up local farmland in Ohio and around the country. It’s a threat to our food, it’s a threat to our national security, and it’s a threat to rural economies and communities. We can’t let that happen.

It’s why I introduced bipartisan legislation to expose foreign farmland ownership and close loopholes that allow countries like China to conceal their identities when buying U.S. agricultural land.

Our bill would shine a light on foreign adversaries that buy up farmland in Ohio by strengthening the reporting and enforcement of foreign ownership of agricultural land in the United States.

This issue is something we’ve been working on for a while. Last year in the Senate we passed our bipartisan Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act to prevent big investors from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying American farmland and food businesses. The House needs to finish the job to get it to the president’s desk.

One issue that came up when working on that bill was all of the gaps in the data we have and the loopholes in disclosure laws. When I talk to Ohio farmers, they tell me they can’t even get a handle on the extent of this problem, because foreign purchasers can easily conceal their identities.

That’s why we wrote this new bill. We already have a law on the books that requires any foreign entity buying U.S. agricultural land to disclose the transaction to the United States Department of Agriculture. But that law hasn’t been updated in years.

The government’s own oversight report, released last month, found alarming gaps in how the Department of Agriculture currently tracks these foreign investments.

New reports indicate that a Chinese billionaire bought 200,000 acres of American farmland in Oregon – making him the second biggest foreign owner of land in America. And we didn’t even know about it.

Our bill will modernize and strengthen the rules to improve tracking of who owns U.S. farmland – and that will help us block countries like China and Russia from buying up this land.

We know it’s a particular concern around military installations. I don’t want countries like China or Iran or Russia to be able to buy up land near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base or the Youngstown Air Reserve Station or Camp Perry. And right now, we have no way to know whether that’s happening.

We can’t let lax, outdated laws prevent us from protecting Ohio farmland and our food security and our farming communities.

Sherrod Brown is the senior U.S. senator from Ohio.