The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a major toll on the American food supply chain, with some companies reducing slaughter capacity.
However, many of these companies are owned by foreign investors. According to a May 2019 NPR report, “nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors. That number has doubled in the past two decades.”
Smithfield Foods, Inc., owns more than 500 farms on 146,000 acres of U.S. soil. Smithfield was purchased by the Chinese company WH Group (then known as Shuanghui Group/Shineway Group), China’s largest meat producer, for $4.72 billion in 2013.
“Right out my back door here, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, has recently bought out a couple grain elevators, basically extracting the wealth out of the community,” Angela Huffman, a sixth-generation farmer in Wyandot County, Ohio, told NPR at the time.
During this pandemic, at least 518 Smithfield employees tested positive at the company’s plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which made it the largest single source of coronavirus cases in the country. The plant employs 3,700 people.
Meanwhile, German investors own 71,000 acres of farmland in Ohio, according to that same NPR report.
“They started to buy land in Iowa and Minnesota but right when they started, [Iowa and Minnesota] passed state laws which restricted foreign ownership,” John Trimmer, who manages 30,000 acres of corn and soybean farms for German investors, told NPR. As a result, those German investors took their business to Ohio.
Out of all foreign investors, Canadians own the most farmland in the U.S.
American farmers and corporations also invest in foreign agriculture, owning billions of dollars of farmland across the globe.
To read the full NPR report, click here.