USDA recently made public new data regarding foreign ownership of farmland in the United States. According to the latest data, which encompasses the year 2020, foreign owned acreage of farm, ranch and forestland increased by 2.4 million acres to 37.6 million acres with 40% of that growth taking place in three states (Oklahoma, Texas and Colorado). The USDA data is collected under the Agriculture Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, which was first enacted in 1978 and now requires that a foreign person who acquires, disposes of, or holds an interest in United States agricultural land must disclose such transactions and holdings to the Secretary of Agriculture.
Concern for foreign ownership of farmland has increased in recent years bringing this statute back into focus to determine what improvements or additional measures should be taken to address concerns related to foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.
Last year, Arkansas enacted a new statute (Act 1046) requiring reporting to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Tracking foreign ownership and investment in farmland can prove difficult due to the structure of the entity acquiring land and the information they disclose. In addition, limitations on who can own farmland are difficult to put in place due to laws relating to property rights and real estate.