Tester’s Bipartisan Bill Aims to Protect American Farmland from Foreign Entities

Senator’s bipartisan PASS Act would prevent foreign powers like China from buying U.S. agricultural land

Continuing his fight to defend America’s food supply and national security, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) today teamed up with U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to introduce bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from investing in, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring U.S. farmland.

In addition to protecting American agricultural land from foreign entities, the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act would add the Secretary of Agriculture as a standing member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to consider agriculture needs when making determinations affecting national security, and require a report to Congress from USDA on the risks posed by foreign takeovers of U.S. businesses engaged in agriculture.

“As a third-generation Montana farmer, I’m not going to sit back and let our foreign adversaries weaken our national security by buying up American farmland,” said Tester. “That’s why I’m proud to be joining my friend Senator Rounds on this bipartisan effort to prevent foreign entities from acquiring U.S. farmland and ensure our farmers have a seat at the table when the government makes decisions impacting our national security.”

“Protecting American farmland is critical to maintaining our national security,” said Rounds. “In my travels around South Dakota, I have heard from many farmers and ranchers who are concerned about foreign adversaries owning American farmland. It is time to put a stop to this and take action. This legislation makes certain American interests are protected by blacklisting foreign adversaries from purchasing land or businesses involved in agriculture.”

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and a stronger food supply system. During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this past year, Tester pushed for answers about how the federal government tracks foreign investment in American farmland and agribusiness.

Last year, Tester introduced the bipartisan Food Security is National Security Act with Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) to include the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services as members of CFIUS and require the Committee to consider the security of our nation’s food and agriculture systems as a factor when determining to take action with respect to foreign investment.

CFIUS is an interagency body comprised of nine officials, two ex officio members, and Presidential appointees that assists the President in reviewing the national security aspects of foreign direct investment in the United States. CFIUS’s members include: Departments of the Treasury (chair), Justice, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, and Energy, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Tester has also worked aggressively to pass his two bipartisan bills, the Meat Packing Special Investigator Act and the Cattle Price Discovery and Transparency Act, to combat consolidation in the meat industry, protect family farmers and ranchers, lower prices for consumers, and ensure America’s food security. Both bills passed out of the Senate Agriculture Committee last year.

Additionally, Tester has also previously introduced his Agriculture Right to Repair Act to finally guarantee farmers the right to repair their own equipment and end current restrictions on the repair market. Last week he re-introduced his bipartisan American Beef Labeling Act, which would bring back Mandatory Country of Original Labeling (MCOOL) for beef, and his bipartisan New Markets for State-Inspected Meat and Poultry Act, which would allow meat and poultry products inspected by Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) approved state Meat and Poultry Inspection (MPI) programs to be sold across state lines.