Corporate Farming Notes

Farmland owned by foreign interests on the rise

A recent report from the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that foreign holdings of U.S. farmland doubled between 2004 and 2014. Foreign investors now control 27.3 million acres of farmland.

Among the leading foreign owners of domestic farmland is the Chinese firm Shuanghui. The same firm purchased pork giant Smithfield Foods in 2013. Shuanghui owns more than 146,000 acres of farmland in the U.S.

The Center for Rural Affairs has long fought corporate control of our farmland and food production. Nebraska's Initiative 300 barred corporate ownership of farmland in the state. The 1982 ballot amendment won the support of Nebraskans concerned about maintaining control over the basic assets of their communities. The law was struck down after three decades in a case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ownership by foreign corporations simply heightens the concern that led to corporate farming bans across nine largely agriculture states in the Midwest and Plains. As a first step toward addressing this issue, the Center supports proposals to strengthen reporting on foreign ownership of farmland and to strengthen enforcement of existing state laws governing such sales.

Merger-mania moves ahead

A major wave of consolidation in the seed and chemical industry that kicked off in 2016 continues to move forward through market and regulatory hoops. Mergers underway include the proposed unions of Bayer and Monsanto; Dow and Dupont; and ChemChina and Syngenta. The deals are reshaping an already highly consolidated market.

As giant transnational corporations increase their power over the market, independent farmers are left with fewer options and suffer from less competition among input providers. Farmers have lost access to seed varieties and genetic traits while seeing the prices they pay for biotechnology traits skyrocket.

The Center believes in the power of a competitive marketplace and the role of government in guarding against unfair and anticompetitive market practices. We continue to call on the Justice Department and on Congress to take action to block these mergers. Sadly, there appears to be little appetite to do so among D.C. policymakers.