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House panel: Put the brakes on China-owned farmland in U.S.

Approval of Newhouse’s amendment was the latest sign of the increased rivalry between China and the United States as part of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

China would be barred from buying more U.S. farmland and the land already in its possession would become ineligible for farm subsidies under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. On a voice vote, the provision was added to a $197 billion USDA-FDA funding bill headed for a vote on the House floor.

Rep. Dan Newhouse said ownership of nearly 192,000 acres of farmland by Chinese investors was a national security issue. “The current trend in the United States is leading us toward the creation of a Chinese-owned agricultural land monopoly,” said the Republican from Washington State. “There are currently no federal safeguards against the creation of this monopoly.”

Approval of Newhouse’s amendment was the latest sign of the increased rivalry between China and the United States as part of the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Support for Newhouse’s amendment was bipartisan.

New York Rep. Grace Meng, a Democrat, objected to singling out China, saying it might spur attacks on Asian-Americans. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans have surged during the pandemic amid the scapegoating of China as the source of COVID-19.

“Can we honestly say that this amendment, which singles out one country, won’t have repercussions on Asian-Americans across our country?” asked Meng. “Let’s include all of our adversaries.”

“This is about communist China,” said Newhouse. “This is not about calling attention in any negative way to any group of people in this country.”

The prohibition on Chinese purchases of farmland and that land’s eligibility for USDA payments would be a step “to ensure the U.S. food supply chain is secure and independent, especially after all the food interruptions we all experienced during the recent pandemic,” he said.

There are 896.6 million acres, or 1.4 million square miles, of farmland in the United States, according to USDA data.

An Appropriations Committee news release about the USDA-FDA bill is available here.

To watch a video of the Appropriations Committee debate on the bill, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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