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Vilsack talks about Chinese ag ownership as hearing approaches

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack answers questions at the White House on Monday about the difficulty of identifying foreign purchases of American farmland. (Photo from White House video
China

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack talked about foreign ownership of U.S. agricultural land and businesses at a White House briefing Tuesday as a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the subject approaches on Wednesday.

Asked whether purchase of U.S. farmland by Chinese corporations or Chinese nationals is a threat to U.S. national security or food security, Vilsack said, “Well, I think there is concern, as there was in the North Dakota circumstance, where the Chinese interest was purchasing a land near a military installation.”

“I think there is legitimate concerns in that space. And I think that’s one of the reasons why, you know, we’ve articulated the need, as a department, to be more engaged in the CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] process.”



Vilsack said “there is work to be done to give us the tools to be able to do an even better job of ensuring that we know when these transactions take place.”

But he added, “It’s complicated. But every county has their county recorder. And on any given day, somebody may walk into that recorder’s office and file a deed, and there is no way of knowing precisely whether or not that is a Chinese purchaser.”



In order to address the issue of foreign land ownership, “we need to work on how we might be able to collect the information and be able to analyze that information in a timely way so that we would determine whether or not a threat exists or not,” Vilsack said.

Amid proposals that the agriculture secretary should be a member of the CFIUS committee, Vilsack said, “if folks are looking for a foolproof system so that nothing gets through the cracks, then I think there are ways in which we can be helpful, and — and we can improve that process. Being part of CFIUS, I think, is part of it.”

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack answers questions at the White House on Monday about the difficulty of identifying foreign purchases of American farmland. (Photo from White House video
China
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