Following Report that Foreign Billionaire is Second Biggest Foreign Owner of U.S. Land, Tester Presses for Passage of His Bill to Block Adversaries from Buying Farmland
Senator presses Administration to review purchase, calls on Congressional leaders to pass his bipartisan legislation to crack down on ownership of U.S. farmland and agribusinesses by foreign adversaries after House Republicans blocked it;
Tester: “Make no mistake, our food security is national security”
Following new reporting that a billionaire foreign national purchased nearly 200,000 acres of American agricultural land in Oregon in 2015, making him the second biggest foreign owner of land in America, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today is calling on Congressional leaders to swiftly pass his bipartisan legislation that would crack down on ownership of U.S farmland and agribusinesses by our foreign adversaries. Additionally, Tester is calling on both the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of the Treasury to review this concerning sale. Tester has led the charge in the U.S. Senate to ban China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from acquiring American farmland — his bill passed the Senate 91-7 before it was blocked by House Republicans.
In his letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Tester stressed that Congress must prioritize his bill to protect American food security and national security: “While we learn more about the specifics around this unfolding situation, it highlights the need for Congress to do more to protect American agricultural security and prevent our foreign adversaries from controlling our country’s food supply while also gaining access to land near sensitive military sites. My bipartisan legislation with Senator Rounds that passed the Senate 91-7 would do just that. In the coming weeks, I urge you to work with Congress to finally pass this bill through the House of Representatives to address this urgent national security issue.”
Tester sharply criticized members of Congress for holding up his bipartisan legislation that would address this issue: “Congress had the opportunity to take an important step to protect American farmland from our foreign adversaries in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act. Senator Rounds and I passed our amendment to combat involvement of our foreign adversaries in American agriculture by a wide bipartisan margin, but a small number of House Republican members stopped it from becoming law. Make no mistake, our food security is national security.”
Additionally, Tester called on both USDA and the Treasury to review the reported sale and offer recommendations to improve vetting and tracking of these types of transactions: “This significant purchase made the individual the second largest foreign owner of American agricultural land. I expect both of your departments to review this seeming lack of disclosure on the 2015 sale, and look forward to your findings and recommendations to strengthen AFIDA and the Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS) and any other systems at your disposal to vet and track these types of sales.”
As the only working dirt farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester had led the charge to protect American food security and national security by cracking down on ownership of U.S. farmland and agribusinesses by foreign adversaries.
Tester has introduced two bipartisan bills — the Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act and the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act — to prohibit America’s foreign adversaries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing or leasing U.S. farmland. Tester’s PASS Act would specifically empower the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to prohibit future purchases of farmland and agribusinesses by our foreign adversaries, and enable CFIUS to review all significant agriculture-related foreign investments using expert data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act would strengthen the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) to further empower the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review foreign ownership of American land.
Tester secured his bipartisan PASS Act as an amendment to the FY24 Senate-passed version of the annual national defense bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Tester’s amendment was ultimately stripped out of the final NDAA by Speaker Johnson and House Republicans.
Tester is also leading the Protect Our Bases Act, bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing foreign adversaries from acquiring property near sensitive American military and intelligence sites like Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Read Tester’s full letter to USDA and Treasury HERE.