Foreign Ownership of U.S. Farmland:

Much Concern, Little Data

CED-78-132: Published: Jun 12, 1978. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1978.

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In response to a congressional inquiry, information was compiled on state laws that place constraints or reporting requirements on ownership of farmland by nonresident aliens and on data collected as a result of state reporting requirements. There is virtually unanimous agreement among persons at all levels of government and in the private sector that there is, currently, no reliable data on the amount of U.S. farmland owned by nonresident aliens or on recent trends of such ownership.

In the aggregate, state laws do not significantly inhibit foreign ownership of land. The laws range from general prohibitions on such ownership to a total absence of provisions dealing with this subject. As of May 1978, 25 states had laws that placed some constraints on aliens acquiring or holding farmland. Nine states had laws that generally prohibit or restrict individual alien investors residing outside the United States from owning real estate in their names. The states have collected very little data on foreign ownership of farmland. Only two states, Iowa and Minnesota, require nonresident aliens to file annual reports on their agricultural landholdings. In a survey of the 50 states, 18 indicated that foreign investment was not an actual or potential problem while 10 states felt that it could become a problem in the future. County records provided little information on foreign investment in county farmland, and local authorities expressed differing views about the implications of nonresident aliens' purchases of farmland.

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