Legislative Watch: Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act; resolution introduced to stop Paraguayan beef imports; USDA announces $772.6 million for rural infrastructure.

Eric Bohl

February 23, 2024

3 Min Read
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A bipartisan group of 10 House lawmakers recently introduced legislation that would strengthen reporting and tracking of foreign farmland purchases under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978, or AFIDA. The bill, H.R. 7131, was introduced by Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.) and cosponsored by five Republicans and four Democrats.

Titled the “AFIDA Improvements Act of 2024,” the legislation would codify recommendations from a recent Government Accountability Office review of AFIDA. Foreign owners holding more than 1% ownership stake in U.S. farmland would be covered by the law, and USDA would receive more authority to require disclosures and investigate ownership.

Upon introducing the bill, the group issued the following joint statement: “We joined together to find a bipartisan path to address the national security concerns stemming from the growing purchases of farmland by the Chinese Communist Party. This legislation, among other things, will ensure that there is timely and detailed data sharing of foreign investments in agricultural land, better reviewing and validating of information, and identify those foreign entities who do not file notification they have purchased land in the United States. Having actual processes in place will strengthen the security of our nation in the event nefarious foreign agents, such as the CCP, try to purchase agricultural lands within our nation. These lands must be protected as they are essential to feeding our country and other parts of the world, feeding livestock, fueling vehicles, and other uses.”

Resolution introduced to stop Paraguayan beef imports

A member of the House Agriculture Committee has introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the Biden administration’s recent decision to allow imports of beef from Paraguay. USDA announced its decision to allow imports of fresh beef from the South American nation in mid-November. The announcement was widely criticized by the U.S. agriculture community, fearing it could open a pathway for foot and mouth disease to enter the country. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) introduced the resolution and was joined by a bipartisan coalition of about 20 colleagues.

“Congress must prevent this unsafe rule from moving forward to protect the livelihoods of America’s farmers and ranchers,” Jackson said. “This dangerous rule, based off decade-old data, is another example of the Biden administration failing to understand the needs of America’s agriculture producers, and further demonstrates their lack of insight and care for the industry.”

The resolution has earned the support of a broad array of agriculture groups, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, R-CALF USA, U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, the Livestock Marketing Association, Texas Cattle Feeders Association and Texas Farm Bureau. If passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law, it would reverse the administration’s decision and bar imports from Paraguay.

USDA announces $772.6 million for rural infrastructure

On Wednesday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that his department will fund 216 rural infrastructure projects in 45 states and two territories. The total cost of the projects will be $772.6 million, for an average project size of over $3.5 million. The announcement is part of a plan the Biden administration is labeling the “Investing in America” tour.

“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda is transforming our country for the better – reaching communities in every corner of the United States, including those that have too often been left behind,” Secretary Vilsack said. “The investments I’m announcing today will help us build our economy from the middle out and bottom up by bringing high-speed internet, clean water, modern infrastructure and good-paying jobs to communities in rural areas, in turn making it more possible for young people to build a good life in the communities they love, and for more Americans to find new opportunity in rural communities.”

Funding will be drawn from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act and awards will focus on providing high-speed internet, clean water, infrastructure and economic growth to rural areas. Within the total package is $51.7 million for high-speed internet and $644.2 million for drinking water and sewage systems in 158 rural communities.

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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