A group of 21 House Republicans wrote a letter Monday to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with questions about data on foreign land purchases within the United States. 

Reps. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., and Tom Emmer, R-Minn. led the request, which was signed by 19 other GOP members. The letter refers to a May report from the China Economic and Security Review Commission that lawmakers said suggested China “is committed to acquiring foreign farmland to meet growing food supply demands that cannot currently be met at home.”

Newhouse said he wants to ensure the Biden Administration is enforcing the laws currently in place to protect national security. “Over the last decade – and continuing today – we have witnessed the People’s Republic of China invest trillions of dollars throughout the Middle East, Indo-Pacific, South America, and Africa as part of their Belts and Roads Initiative. Now, they’re purchasing U.S. agricultural assets as a national priority for the PRC. This poses an immediate threat to U.S. national security and food security,” Newhouse said in a release.

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The most recent data collected under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) shows Chinese investors held a little more than half of 1% of the overall 35.8 million acres of U.S. farmland and forest land under foreign ownership in 2019. 

The letter specifically asked for information on three subjects: a detailed definition of AFIDA’s “other agricultural land” category; the effectiveness of AFIDA reporting enforcement, and USDA’s process for monitoring land usage changes between reporting periods. 

Lawmakers cited inflation and supply chain issues as reasons to better understand U.S. farmland.

This has long been a priority issue for Newhouse. The Washington Republican has championed language that would bar businesses owned by the Chinese government from buying farmland in the U.S. or participating in USDA programs.

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