bill would prevent foreign buyers from accessing Alabama’s farmland and forests | News

Alabama has the third most foreign owned farmland in the United States, with nearly 1.8 million acres.

This is a concern for Sen. Tim Melson, R-Florence, who has pre-tabled a bill to restrict purchases of agricultural and forestry land in Alabama.

“I think we have a problem with the arrival of foreign countries on our farmland,” Melson told Alabama Daily News. “… We feed the world and we don’t need the world to come and buy all of our farmland. It’s just to protect American citizens.

Its Senate Bill 14 states that “a non-resident alien, foreign company or foreign government, or an agent, trustee or trustee thereof, may not buy or acquire in any way agricultural land in that state “.

The Alabama Farmers Federation supports Melson’s bill.

“The pandemic has exposed our country’s dependence on foreign countries for essential supplies,” Preston Roberts, ALFA’s director of agricultural legislation, told DNA. “Securing our ability to produce our nation’s food supply is more critical than ever. Senator Melson’s bill promotes national security and protects hard-working Alabamians.

Nationally, foreign investors held a stake in nearly 35.2 million acres of U.S. forest and farm land, according to a 2019 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

This represented an increase of almost 3.4 million acres from 2018 and represented 2.7% of all private farmland in the United States.

Forest land accounted for 49 percent of all reported area held by foreigners, according to the report. In Alabama, almost all property owned by foreigners is forest.

The report also breaks down foreign ownership by county. Barbour County had the most foreign owned land, nearly 150,000 acres.

Nationally, Canada owns the most foreign-owned U.S. land, nearly 30%. Next come the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany.

In the counties of Montgomery, Autauga and Elmore, the largest foreign owner is the Netherlands. In total, the Netherlands owns nearly 72,000 acres in these counties (4,920 in Montgomery County, 5,899 in Elmore County and 61,117 in Autauga County). Canada is the only other foreign landowner in these three counties, owning 361 acres in Autauga County.

In recent years, other states have moved to impose restrictions on who can own their farmland. Meanwhile, the US Fiscal Year 2022 Farm Appropriation Bill would have required the USDA to take action to “ban the purchase” of farmland by “owned companies, in whole or in part, by China, Russia, Iran or North Korea. . “The Senate did not adopt this language.

While China has a relatively small percentage of farm ownership, most of it is attributed to the 2013 purchase of Smithfield Food by Chinese company WH Group.

“We can do without a lot of things, but we can’t do without food and water,” Melson said.

Melson said he is also working on a bill to expand country-of-origin labeling on meats and products sold in Alabama.

The legislative session begins on January 11.

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