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Committee finds 800,000 acres in Mississippi owned by foreign countries

Photo courtesy of MDAC

The Study Committee on Foreign Purchase of Farmland in Mississippi has released a report showing that nearly 800,000 agricultural acres across the state are currently owned by foreign entities.

The Mississippi legislature passed House Bill 280 during the 2023 session which requires a study committee to create a report showing findings and recommendations for the upcoming session.

The report contains official findings including U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) foreign ownership of land data, a comprehensive list of public comments and testimony submitted to the committee, and current state laws that relate to foreign ownership of water rights and energy facilities.

According to the December 2021 USDA Farm Service Agency “Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land” report, 757,816 agricultural acres were held by foreign interests in Mississippi. In 2011, there were approximately 600,456 acres.

The study showed the total amount of agricultural and nonagricultural acres owned by countries throughout Mississippi:

  • Netherlands – 357,582
  • Germany – 60,352
  • United Kingdom – 58,951
  • Canada – 28,005
  • Italy – 5,495
  • Others – 266,792

Leake County was reported as having the highest number of landholdings by a foreign country, with 73,430 acres being owned by the Netherlands.

“I am deeply concerned by the dramatic increase in foreign ownership of Mississippi’s most valuable asset, our farmland,” Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson stated. “I believe most Mississippians share this concern, and I encourage the Mississippi Legislature to utilize the information contained in the Study Committee’s report as the basis from which to act during the 2024 Regular Legislative Session.”

The committee has released the following recommendations to the legislature as part of its final report:

  • It is clear that current Mississippi law restricts foreign ownership of land by “nonresident aliens” except for the purpose of industrial development. However, the law lacks a clear, workable enforcement mechanism.
  • Continued unrestricted foreign ownership of Mississippi’s agricultural land and water rights especially by foreign adversaries as defined in 15 CFR 7.4 presents a serious concern to Mississippi and national security, including food security.
  • The Legislature should act to address these concerns. At a bare minimum, the Legislature should pass an enforcement mechanism with any appropriate reporting requirements and legal enforcement procedures, along with any exemptions as may be necessary or appropriate tailored to Mississippi’s needs and based on the experiences of other States. In order to accomplish this, the Study Committee highly recommends that the Legislature review and receive guidance from legal experts within the National Agricultural Law Center.

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