The recent trend of Chinese investors buying up US farmland has raised concerns among farmers and government officials in the United States. In particular, the use of water-intensive crops like alfalfa by these investors has become a significant point of contention in the Western US, which has been facing severe drought conditions in recent years.
Chinese investors have been purchasing large amounts of US farmland for a variety of purposes, including growing crops for export back to China. Alfalfa, in particular, has become a popular crop for Chinese investors, as it is used primarily as feed for livestock in China. According to a 2021 report by the USDA, China is the largest importer of alfalfa from the US, accounting for approximately 70% of all US alfalfa exports.
The growing demand for meat in China, particularly for pork and beef, has had a significant effect on the US agricultural market. China has become a major buyer of US agricultural products, and in recent years, it has been one of the largest export markets for US beef and pork. In 2020, China was the third-largest market for US beef exports, accounting for 15% of all US beef exports, and the second-largest market for US pork exports, accounting for 26% of all US pork exports.
While the sale of US agricultural products to China has been a boon for US farmers and producers, the sale of farmland to Chinese investors has raised concerns about the long-term effects on US food security and water resources. Alfalfa, in particular, has become a point of contention, as it is a water-intensive crop that requires significant amounts of irrigation to grow. In a region already facing water shortages, the use of water resources to grow crops for export to China has raised concerns about the sustainability of these practices.
In response to these concerns, some US states have enacted legislation to limit foreign ownership of farmland, while others have implemented regulations to limit the use of water-intensive crops like alfalfa. However, these efforts have faced legal challenges from investors, who argue that these laws violate their property rights.
The growing demand for US agricultural products in China presents both opportunities and challenges for US farmers and producers. While the sale of US products to China has helped to support the US agricultural sector, the sale of farmland to Chinese investors has raised concerns about long-term sustainability and food security. As the global population continues to grow and demand for food increases, these issues are likely to become even more pressing in the years ahead.