The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act, passed in 1978, provides tracking and monitoring of investment in U.S. agriculture. However, American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Danny Munch says the process is due for an upgrade.

"Currently, that process hasn't been updated in over 40 years," Munch said. "So, USDA has opened public comments to provide input on how the form could be improved to answer questions about what other questions could be added to make the survey better, and just other general advice the public wants to give on how to provide better information on this topic."

Munch says the process currently is filled with inefficiencies and inadequate information.

"Right now, only the predominant investor is listed when you fill out the data form, and only their country is listed. So, you have a lot of minority stakeholders that aren't listed and basically shielded from the public data," Munch said. "Right now, the USDA is also statutorily limited in only going up to a third tier level of ownership. So, say you have a number of entities within one another or a shell corporation, it is very difficult to get past that third tier of ownership, so you might not always be ultimately getting to that last country of ownership that might be the most useful to know about."

Munch says AFBF seeks better enforcement in addition to modernization.

"The form is self-reported, and penalties have only been put in place for late reporting not not reporting. So, better enforcement of the act in general and in filling out the form is our first priority," Munch said. "Secondly, we commented and provided a lot of intel on what questions could be added and expanded to get at what are foreign investors doing with the land, as well as just general modernization of the program using an online system."

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