Department of Commerce Activities Regarding Foreign Investment in U.S. Farmland

CED-78-173: Published: Sep 15, 1978. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1978.

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The Office of Foreign Investment in the United States and the Bureau of Economic Analysis, both in the Department of Commerce, are responsible for collecting and analyzing data concerning foreign investments in the United States. The primary emphasis of the Office of Foreign Investment is the monitoring of foreign investments in all sectors of the economy. The Office has published reports containing information on foreign investments for 1976 and for the first half of 1977.

These reports include only four sales of farmland. Officials said that foreign purchases of farmland are usually not publicized because of investor interest in protecting the privacy of such transactions, particularly in view of potential adverse reaction from home countries and in the United States. Since the Office has no active program of contacting investors or developing other sources of data, its activities should not be expected to provide good nationwide data on foreign investments in U.S. farmland. The Bureau of Economic Analysis plans to make annual surveys of direct foreign investments. A questionnaire is being prepared for soliciting information from about 1,500 foreign-owned firms on an annual basis, but it appears that the Bureau is primarily directing its efforts toward previously identified foreign-owned firms. According to Bureau officials, foreign ownership is not easily identified because of the lack of publicity surrounding land purchases. In addition, the questionnaire is not designed to yield information which will allow conclusions to be drawn as to the effect of foreign investment on such things as farm prices, the price of farmland, and the family farm structure.

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