Foreign investment in U.S. agricultural land is a hot topic, and AFBF Economist Danny Munch took a substantive dive into the latest data behind it in a new Market Intel report.

As Munch noted, attention to the issue is largely fueled by media reports raising concerns about bad actors from adversarial nations purchasing land for potentially hostile purposes.

Several questions arise when considering this issue, including how much farm and ranch land is owned by foreign investors, where those investors reside, what kind of land they own, and for what purpose.

According to USDA’s latest Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) report — which is based on data from 2021 — more than 40 million acres of U.S. agricultural land are owned by foreign investors and companies. This corresponds to 1.8% of all land in the U.S. and 3.1% of all privately held agricultural land.

Canadian investors own the largest portion of foreign-held U.S. agricultural land with 31% (12.8 million acres) of the total and 0.97% of all U.S. agricultural land.

Following Canada, investors from the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany own 0.37% (4.9 million acres), 0.21% (2.7 million acres), 0.19% (2.5 million acres) and 0.17% (2.3 million acres) of U.S. agricultural land, respectively.

China is ranked 18th in the ownership of U.S. ag land with less than 1% of total foreign-owned U.S. ag land, or just three-hundredths of one percent of all agricultural land in the U.S. This reflects a total area of about a single average sized-county in Ohio.

More than 52% of the reported acreage was listed under the category that includes limited liability companies, 32% was corporations (most of which Munch said were formed in the U.S.), 12% was partnerships, 2.3% was individuals and the remainder was split between trusts, estates, institutions and associations.

Of the 3,142 counties and parishes in the U.S., 79% have at least one foreign investor present. In 65% of counties, foreign investors own between 1 and 19,999 acres of land. Only 18 counties — or 0.01% of all counties — have over 200,000 acres of agricultural land held by foreign investors, the top four of which are in northern Maine with Canada-based investors.

A little over 20% of Maine’s privately held agricultural land is held by foreign investors, which makes up 9% of total foreign-held ag land. Hawaii has the second-largest percentage of foreign-held U.S. agricultural land, which is 9.2% of the privately held agricultural land in the state. In Arizona, 0.46% of privately held agricultural land was owned by foreign investors in 2021.

In 2021, 48% (19.2 million acres) of reported foreign-held agricultural land was forestland, 29% (11.8 million acres) was cropland, 18% (7.3 million acres) was pastureland and 5% (1.8 million acres) was other agricultural land and non-ag land, which accounts for factors like owner or worker housing and rural roads.

These proportions vary widely depending on the state. Forestland, for instance, makes up 98% of foreign-held agricultural land in Alabama, but less than 1% of foreign-held agricultural land in Arizona. According to Munch, 34% of foreign-held agriculture land in Arizona is pastureland and 32% cropland with the remainder being other ag land.

Analyzing the quantity of reported foreign-investor-held U.S. agricultural land over time reveals a 27-million-acre increase (214%) in the four decades since AFIDA reports were made available. This increase appears to be linked to increased global interest in renewable energy projects which has become a leading reason for purchases by foreign investors of U.S. ag land.

Between 2010 and 2021, foreign-investor-held agricultural land increased by 15.8 million acres, with cropland increasing at the highest percent (182%) with an additional 7.5 million acres, forestland increasing the highest numerically at 8.6 million acres (80%) and other ag land declining 3% or 240,000 acres.

“The vast majority of this land is owned by investors from nations considered friendly to the U.S., though data reporting limitations prevent us from accessing a precise breakdown,” Munch wrote.

“Improvements to collection and enforcement would appear to be a meaningful way for consumers, farmers and policymakers alike to better understand this issue. Furthermore, understanding the sensitivities of each individual investor situation, their history, and the implications for agriculture regionally are all likely to be considerations for legislative or policy actions.”

Munch breaks down foreign ownership data even further, including ownership from investors based in countries including Iran, Cuba and Russia in the full Market Intel report, available at

In the meantime, Arizona Farm Bureau formed an ad hoc committee drawing from its ag leaders to begin work in 2024 to investigate the issue and determine what policy should come out of their work.