U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Farmland for Farmers Act, legislation that would address rising rates of corporate farmland investment by limiting future ownership and leasing by corporate investors to ensure that farmland in the United States stays in the hands of farmers.
Farmland ownership has long been a source of wealth and power in rural America. However, as large corporations continue to gobble up agricultural land as part of their investment strategy, family farmers are forced out of business and rural communities are hollowed out. The number of institutionally owned properties rose three-fold from 2009 to 2022, and the market value of that property increased from less than $2 billion dollars to over $14 billion in the same time period.
Specifically, the Farmland for Farmers Act would:
• Restrict corporations, multilayered subsidiaries, pension funds and investment funds from purchasing or leasing agricultural land. These types of corporations would be allowed to continue owning farmland they already own, but these corporate owners would not have future access to USDA and Farm Credit System programs and benefits, which should not be used to underwrite speculative corporate farmland investments.
• Not apply to corporations with 25 or fewer shareholders, partners, members, or beneficial owners who are all actively engaged in farming; non-profit corporations; farmer cooperatives; or to farmland owned by a legal entity formed by owners of heirs’ property.
• Strengthen State authority to regulate corporations, both domestic and foreign, involved in farmland ownership.
• Authorize imposition of penalties on corporate entities that violate ownership restrictions.
“We must protect farmland from becoming an investment strategy for huge corporations and ensure independent family farmers are not locked out of opportunities to thrive,” said Sen. Booker. “This legislation is a crucial step in safeguarding rural America by ensuring that farmland remains in the hands of family farmers and is easier to acquire for those who dream of farming. For our domestic food security and the strength of our economy, we should prioritize the autonomy of rural communities and end speculative corporate investments that drive small farms out of business.”
“We, as Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey (NOFA NJ) applaud and support Senator Booker’s Farmland for Farmers Act of 2023,” said Cali Alexander, NOFA NJ Board Policy Chair. “We believe the Act will give further legal basis and footing to update and strengthen existing state statutes, laws and reporting on corporate and foreign ownership and encourage more states to adopt laws. Protecting community family farm ownership of farmland is paramount for all the diverse types of next generation farmers whether from a family farm or setting out on their own quest.”
The legislation is endorsed by the following organizations: Action Aid USA, American Grassfed Association, American Sustainable Business Network, Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, Dakota Resource Council, Farm Action Fund, Farm Aid, Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, Food & Water Watch, HEAL Food Alliance, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, Land Loss Prevention Project, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, National Family Farm Coalition, National Young Farmers Coalition, Nebraska Communities United, Northeast Organic Farming Association – New Jersey, Open Markets Institute, Pennsylvania Farmers Union, R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America), Rural Advancement Foundation International–USA, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, Western Organization of Resource Councils, Wisconsin Farmers Union.