Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made it clear Saturday at a 2020 presidential candidate forum in Iowa that she firmly opposes the growing dominance of foreign entities in the U.S. agricultural sector, saying “no foreign country should be able to purchase farmland in America.”
“Right now, the farmland that is already in foreign ownership, if it were all put in one place, is the size of Virginia, and that not only creates a problem for farming communities and for our food security, it creates a threat to the safety and the defense of the United States of America.”
Warren was asked about growing foreign dominance in the sector at the HuffPost co-sponsored Heartland Forum in Storm Lake, Iowa, where she had gathered with other candidates, including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), to discuss rural issues and corporate power.
Barbara Leach, a member of the Iowa Farmers Union, which also co-sponsored the forum, asked specifically about foreign ownership not just of farmland but of the “whole agricultural sector.”
“There’s Chinese Smithfield, Germany’s Bayer, Brazil’s JBS. We can make a long list. My question to you is: What would you do about it? What can be done?” Leach asked.
Warren noted that, ahead of the event, she had released a detailed proposal focused specifically on the agricultural sector, in which she said she wanted to combat both consolidation and the growing control of U.S. farmland by foreign companies.
In her proposal, Warren called out two of the companies Leach cited by name, saying the 2018 merger between Bayer and U.S. agribusiness giant Monsanto “should never have been approved” and criticizing CEO compensation at the Chinese organization that owns Smithfield.
On Saturday and in her proposal, she also said the nation should follow Iowa’s lead when it comes to foreign ownership.
“Iowa has the right idea,” she wrote in her proposal. “It passed a law prohibiting foreign individuals or entities from purchasing farmland for the purpose of farming. I support a national version of that law, and as president, I will use all available tools to restrict foreign ownership of American agriculture companies and farmland.”