National Programs & Policy Coordinator
New Legislation Will Safeguard Farmland from Further Corporate Land Grabs
WASHINGTON, DC, July 27, 2023 – The National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) enthusiastically supports The Farmland for Farmers Act of 2023, introduced today by Senator Cory Booker (NJ). As farmers and rural communities grapple with record high farmland prices and increasing farmland purchases by institutional investors, agribusinesses and energy companies, this federal bill is the first to address the most pressing concerns regarding the corporate capture of US farmland.
While more than 40% of US farmland is expected to change hands in the next decade as the current generation of farmers retires, young farmers name accessing affordable farmland as their top challenge. The need to ensure that farmland stays in farmer-owned and community-based production has never been more urgent. Higher land prices provide an advantage to corporate buyers that view farmland as a way to profit off of land rents, frequently at the expense of local farmers and landowners in crisis. With the legal and financial resources to recruit billions of dollars in capital from investors, corporate buyers have an unfair advantage to outbid independent family-scale farmers – and prospective new farmers, in particular. As a result, the amount of corporate-owned agricultural properties has risen threefold since 2009.
Ben Vig, a member of Dakota Resource Council and resident of Sharon, North Dakota, said:
“As we watch other industries, corporate ownership often leads to shareholder profits taken from a local community then a possible consolidation and mergers. Agricultural farmland should not be treated the same as Wall Street ventures. We know first hand, when family farmers earn a living on the land, they invest in their community. When farmers have money, they spend money locally, propping up main street businesses. This legislation is a step in the right direction.”
The Farmland for Farmers Act stops this trend in its tracks, restricting future farmland ownership and leasing by corporate investors. In particular, the bill prevents corporate actors from accessing USDA and Farm Credit System benefits to finance their investments, instead keeping these benefits solely accessible by the farmers they are meant to serve. While corporations may keep farmland they currently own, the Act strengthens long-standing state-level restrictions on corporate farmland ownership as well as existing federal policies that track corporate farmland purchases, and authorizes civil and criminal penalties for violations of the law. Importantly, farmer cooperatives, heirs’ property owners, and nonprofit or municipal corporations with 25 or fewer stakeholders are exempt, provided all parties are actively engaged in farming.
“Farmland needs to stay in the hands of local family farmers, not absentee investors, Wall Street and multinational corporations from around the country and around the world looking to make a profit,” said Darvin Bentlage, 4th generation cattle and grain farmer from southwest Missouri and member of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. ” We need the Farmland for Farmers Act and other Farm Bill policies that combat the corporate takeover of our farm and food system, which drives down prices paid to farmers and drives up prices paid by consumers.”
Farmer-owned agricultural land supports rural communities while also ensuring a stable US food supply and protecting natural resources. Recent Congressional concern over farmland ownership reflects a national sentiment that farmland should be kept within the hands of the family-scale farmers and producers who feed us. Corporate farmland ownership – whether by offshore or domestic entities – contributes to an increasingly consolidated, unstable food system in the name of maximizing shareholder profits.
Savi Horne, Executive Director of the Land Loss Prevention Project, applauded the bill, saying: “Each community across the country is unique, and ensuring that farmland is owned and operated by individuals invested in the community is a vital part of building generational and family wealth. The 2023 Farmland for Farmers Act levels the playing field by ensuring that individuals and families are not continually disadvantaged when seeking to buy and retain farmland by having to compete with corporate resources.”
Since 1986, National Family Farm Coalition has been mobilizing family farmers and ranchers to achieve fair prices, vibrant communities, and healthy foods free of corporate domination. Today, NFFC includes 31 member groups representing family farmers, ranchers, fisherfolk, and rural advocates across the United States.