Technical assistance

Politicians seek to curb ownership of Chinese farms


With help from Helena Bottemiller Evich and Ryan McCrimmon

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Lawmakers on the Hill are stepping up calls to crack down on foreign investment in U.S. farmland, specifically targeting Chinese companies.

Weather change is discussed as a growing root cause of immigration due to the increase natural disasters and drought that devastated the agricultural sector in Central America.

The American food system is three times more expensive after taking into account the significant costs for human health and the environment, according to a new report.

HAPPY MONDAY JULY 19! Welcome to Morning Ag, where your host is jealous of whoever gets that tasty job. Send advice to [email protected] and @ximena_bustillo, and follow us @Matin_Ag.

AMERICAN FARMS BELONGING TO CHINA: Lawmakers are seeking to pass legislation that targets China’s ability to buy farmland from the United States, our Ryan McCrimmon reports, as part of greater pressure from the Biden administration to reduce economic dependence on the United States. vis-à-vis the economic rival and national security.

In numbers : Chinese companies have expanded their presence in American agriculture over the past decade by grabbing farmland and buying up big food companies, like pork processing giant Smithfield Foods. In early 2020, Chinese owners controlled approximately 192,000 agricultural acres in the United States, worth $ 1.9 billion, including land used for agriculture, ranching and forestry, according to the Department of Agriculture.

USDA reported in 2018 that China’s agricultural investments in other countries have more than increased tenfold since 2009. The Communist Party of China is supporting foreign agricultural investments to better control the country’s food supply chain.

Current restrictions: Some states like Iowa and Minnesota already have their own forms of restrictions on foreign ownership of farmland. Others, like Texas, are much more open to foreign investment.

And the others ? Nationals of European countries and Canada own much more farmland in the United States, and lawmakers have questioned the advisability of giving grants to American companies that are subsidiaries of foreign companies, like JBS.

Stay tuned for Hill’s action: During the recent House Appropriations Markup of the Agriculture-FDA Spending Bill, the committee passed an amendment to block any further agricultural purchases by companies wholly or partially controlled by the Chinese government and to ban farms owned by the Chinese government. Chinese people to exploit federal support programs.

Committee leaders pledged to continue working on the language to address concerns of some members about China’s uniqueness. Stay tuned to Morning Ag as Bill heads to the House floor later this month as part of a larger appropriation package.

THE CLIMATE CRISIS SOUTH OF THE BORDER: Climate change is putting pressure on the U.S. immigration system as the Biden administration continues to try to tackle migration on the southern border, reports Sabrina Rodriguez of POLITICO. Climate change is one of the many factors forcing thousands of migrants to leave their homes as crops are destroyed and food insecurity and unemployment increase in agricultural sectors.

Worsening of harvests: An increase in natural disasters, including hurricanes and droughts, around the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras is leading to reduced crop productivity and water shortages. Increased crop failures, floods, prolonged droughts, and widespread malnutrition and poverty are often cited as reasons migrants want to leave.

“If they stay,” they say, “they are more likely to devastate the crops. They will see their families go hungry. Their only choice, they say: leave and look for opportunities elsewhere, ”Sabrina reports.

What the United States can do about climate change: Development experts say the US government can pay for technical assistance to farmers in Central America, who mainly focus on subsistence farming. It can also provide humanitarian assistance to meet immediate needs, such as fighting hunger and malnutrition.

Crops like corn, grains, sugarcane, and coffee are more vulnerable to climate change, which is why USAID is looking at the work here in two parts: first, building resilience, which means helping farmers. to diversify their cultures and learn techniques that can help withstand certain weather conditions. events; and second, to seek economic development outside of agriculture. Over 30 percent of Guatemala’s jobs are in agriculture.

USDA involved: MA readers may recall that Vice President Kamala Harris indicated earlier this year that the Department of Agriculture would be an agency rolling out policies to help farmers in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries who have been “devastated by the climate crisis and drought”.

OUR SUPER EXPENSIVE CHEAP FOOD SYSTEM: Critics of the US food system have long argued that our extremely efficient and affordable food supply ignores all the hidden costs to public health, the environment, and vulnerable low-wage workers.

Now they have a new estimate for how expensive the system can be: $ 3.2 trillion.

That calculation, released by the Rockefeller Foundation on Friday, is about three times the size of the $ 1.1 trillion food system. The “real cost” represents a long list of hidden costs, such as food-related illnesses, loss of biodiversity and contributions to climate change.

Massive public health costs: The human health toll is by far the largest unaccounted for cost to the food system, according to the report. At $ 1.1 trillion, food-related illnesses alone double the “real cost” of the food system – “our national” bill “for food-related illness equals all. money we are currently paying for the food itself, ”according to one summary. .

Costly for the environment: The unaccounted for environmental costs amount to nearly $ 900 billion per year, according to the report. These costs are mainly due to greenhouse gas emissions and the costs of biodiversity.

“This report is a wake-up call,” Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, said in a statement. “To solve a problem, we must first understand its scope.”

– The leaders of many major cities, including Seattle and San Francisco, are fighting to keep their gas stoves as new regulations push restaurants to switch to electricity to reduce emissions. The Wall Street Journal has more.

– Napa has some of the most expensive farmland in the country, selling for up to $ 1 million an acre, but wineries have little to do to adapt their vineyards to more droughts and wildfires, writes The New York Times.

– Consumer interest in plant-based meats increased in 2020, including interest in fake fish, according to CNBC.

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