Foreign ownership of ag land increases 1.49 million acres

Published online: Sep 29, 2013
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The U.S. Farm Service Agency has released its annual report on foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land.

As of Dec. 31, 2011, foreign investors hold an interest in 25.7 million acres of U.S. agricultural land, that amounts to about 2 percent of all privately held ag land and 1 percent of all land in the united States. That is up 1.49 million acres from the previous year.

54 percent of the foreign-held land is forest land, 19 percent is cropland and 27 percent is pasture or other agricultural land.

Foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land was relatively steady from 2000 through 2006, there was a 3.6 million acre increase in 2007 and since 2008 the increases have been 1.3 to 1.5 million acres per year.

Foreign persons own acreage in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Except for Maine and Michigan, most of the foreign-owned agricultural land is in the Southeast and the West. Texas has the largest amount of foreign-owned agricultural land; 2.89 million acres, Maine has the second-most; 2.87 million of which most is forest land. Maine has the highest percentage of foreign-held land, 16 percent of all privately owned agricultural land in the state.

The biggest increases in foreign-owned land in 2011: Kansas up 148,647 acres, Washington increased 128,904 and Wisconsin added 107,463 foreign-owned acres in the year.

Canadians own the most U.S. agricultural land, 7.2 million acres, 1.8 million acres is owned by people from the Netherlands, Germans own 655,000 acres, citizens of the United Kingdom own 570,000 and Portuguese own 475,000 acres.

A "foreign person" is defined as one who is not a citizen of the United States, does not have permanent residence in the U.S., foreign governments and U.S. entities in which there is significant foreign interest ore substantial control. Anyone who holds a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card) is not considered a foreign person.