Who Owns U.S. Agricultural Land?

Who Owns U.S. Agricultural Land?

The USDA released a report today detailing foreign holdings of U.S. agricultural land as of December 2011, and it’s pretty fascinating stuff. “Foreign persons” are defined as individuals who are not citizens of the U.S., foreign businesses and governments that have their principal place of business in a foreign country and U.S. entities in which there is a significant foreign interest.

Below are some of the more eye-opening facts:

So, How Much Land is Foreign Held?

Foreign investors held an interest in 25.7 million acres of U.S. agricultural land (forest land and farmland) as of December 31, 2011. This is an increase of 1,490,781 acres from the December 31, 2010 report, and represents 2.0 percent of all privately held agricultural land in the United States.

Forest land accounted for 54 percent of all foreign held agricultural acreage, cropland for 19 percent, and pasture and other agricultural land for 27 percent.

Foreign persons have reported acreage holdings in all 50 States and Puerto Rico.

The state of Texas has the largest amount of foreign held U.S. agricultural land with 2,894,563 acres. This figure represents only 1.9 percent of privately owned agricultural land in Texas.

Maine has the second largest amount of foreign held agricultural acres with 2,877,965 and Washington has the third largest amount of foreign held agricultural land with 1,671,102 acres, which is 7.6 percent of its privately held agricultural land.

16 percent of Maine’s of Maine’s privately held agricultural land is held by foreign investors; this is approximately 11 percent of the reported foreign held agricultural land in the United States.

Hawaii has the second largest percentage of foreign held U.S. agricultural land, 158,887 acres, which is 8.8 percent of the privately held agricultural land in the state. Washington, Alabama and Florida follow.

Kansas, Washington and Wisconsin showed the biggest increases in foreign-held agricultural acres in 2011. The increases were primarily due to the execution of long-term leasehold interests by wind energy companies.

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Who Owns It?

Canadian investors own the most reported foreign held agricultural and non-agricultural land, with 28 percent, or 7,250,834 acres. Foreign persons from the Netherlands own 19 percent, Germany owns 7, the United Kingdom owns 6 and Portugal owns 5. Together, 9,511,437 acres or 36 percent of foreign-held acres are owned by individuals or entities from these countries.

What Do They Use it For?

Fifty-two percent of the land is timber or forest with cropland accounting for only 19 percent of the total acres. Foreign held pasture and other agricultural land totals 27 percent of all foreign interest holdings in the United States. Nonagriculture land (including homestead and roads commonly reported as part of the agricultural land or land that is idle now, but its last use in the past 5 years was agricultural) accounts for approximately 2 percent.

What Are the Trends?

Between 2007 and 2011, foreign landholdings in cropland and pasture land increased. During this time period, cropland increased from roughly 2,400,000 acres to 4,900,000 acres, and pastureland increased from approximately 4,000,000 acres to 5,900,000. These changes are mostly due to foreign-owned wind companies executing long-term leases on large numbers of acres; however, the acres actually utilized by said companies are very few due to the small footprint of the wind towers erected on the land.

Read the whole report here [PDF].

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