Washington, D.C. – Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Mike Flood (R-NE) are leading the push for accountability to address United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failure to conduct oversight of foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land. In a bipartisan letter, the lawmakers led their colleagues in demanding USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack account for why USDA turned a blind eye to this threat to local farmers, rural communities, and U.S. national security for four years.

This action follows the publicization of an internal USDA memo that revealed USDA failed to assess or follow through to penalize failures to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land between 2015 and 2018, which is required by the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA).

“Food security is national security, and I am demanding answers for why USDA failed to do its job to protect U.S. agricultural land from our foreign adversaries,” Stefanik said. “Our nation is currently faced with the increasing threat of foreign adversaries like China undermining our agriculture industry, encroaching on our military bases, and threatening our food security. The USDA’s failure of due diligence is inexcusable. There must be accountability, so we do not cede any awareness or ownership of our food supply to foreign actors working against the United States.”

“The recent increase in foreign purchases of U.S. farmland demonstrates the need for more government transparency of these purchases and to address flaws in the system for foreign acquisitions of land. We have an obligation to protect our food supply and those who produce it. It’s troublesome that USDA ignored these transactions and we need to ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future,” Crawford said.

“Our country’s land is inextricably linked to our national security, food supply, and energy resources. At a time when foreign ownership of our country’s farmland is rightly coming under increased scrutiny, complete reporting will help ensure that the American people have all the information they need to steward the future of our land and natural resources,” Flood said.

In the letter, the lawmakers stated that, “We cannot allow failures to report foreign acquisition of U.S. agricultural land to go unpunished,” and demanded answers to the following questions:

  • Why did USDA fail to assess penalties as described in the memo?
  • What actions has USDA taken to address these issues since the memo was produced?
  • What is USDA’s course of action to address these issues in the future?
  • Will USDA pursue applying retroactive AFIDA enforcement penalties for the period from 2015-2018?

Additionally, they requested any and all correspondence regarding USDA’s failure to assess penalties, including the redacted sections of the USDA memos, as well as any and all correspondence with USDA’s Office of the General Counsel from 2015 to the present regarding the failure to assess AFIDA penalties.

Representatives Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Ralph Norman (R-SC), Harriet Hageman (R-WY), Don Bacon (R-NE), Nick Langworthy (R-NY), Jason Smith (R-MO), John Rutherford (R-FL), Randy Feenstra (R-IA), Ben Cline (R-VA), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Barry Moore (R-AL), Ashley Hinson (R-IA), Jim Baird (R-IN), Mary Miller (R-IL), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Stephanie Bice (R-OK), Mike Lawler (R-NY), Frank Lucas (R-OK), Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Mike Bost (R-IL) joined Stefanik, Pocan, Crawford, and Flood in sending this letter.

Stefanik led the bipartisan Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act with Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA) and Rick Crawford (R-AR) and Senators Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Tester (D-MT) to protect our national security by preventing foreign adversaries from taking any ownership or control of the United States’ agricultural land and businesses.

Stefanik and Crawford have also worked to update AFIDA to best address the national security threat of foreign adversaries owning U.S. agricultural land.