Bipartisan bills in the House and Senate, inspired by rising international tensions, would block China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from buying U.S. farmland or agricultural companies, said sponsors on Thursday.
China-based Fufeng Group may be forced to abandon plans for a corn milling plant in North Dakota, with the Air Force declaring the project "a significant threat to national security." The plant would be 12 miles from Grand Fork Air Force Base, a hub for air and space operations. Critics say the processing facility could be used to spy on Air Force activities.
U.S. cotton exports will shrink by 14 percent this trade year, the result of a drought-stunted crop, but America will remain the No. 1 supplier to the world market, said the USDA on Thursday.
President Biden directed the Treasury-led committee that scrutinizes foreign investment in America to consider the national security impact any deals would have on U.S. technological leadership, including biotechnology and “elements of the agricultural industrial base that have implications for food security.” The executive order was issued amid rising concerns about Chinese purchases of U.S. land and companies.
War in Ukraine and record-large ag exports to China will drive U.S. net farm income to a record $148.3 billion this year, twice as high as five years ago, said the FAPRI think tank on Monday. Income would decline in 2023 and 2024 as commodity prices soften, and then hold steady through 2027.
So far this year, U.S. exports to China are running at 2021's level and there is little reason to expect improvement in the near term, said analyst Chad Bown of the Peterson Institute for International Economics on Monday. "While agriculture overall remains a U.S. export bright spot in 2022, products like pork, wheat, and corn face new worries," he wrote.
China was far and away the top customer for U.S. food and ag exports, despite rising tensions between the nations and the still-unresolved trade war, according to government data released on Monday. Agricultural economist David Widmar said China was on track to break the record it set last year for purchases of American agricultural products.
The global population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950, less than 1 percent a year, said the United Nations on Monday, with the population forecast to pass the milestone of 8 billion on Nov. 15. India was expected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation next year, with the United States challenged for third place by Nigeria by mid-century.
A week after a House committee voted to prohibit China from purchasing U.S. agricultural land, the No. 3 House Republican leader cited national security concerns in spearheading legislation to block China from acquiring U.S. agricultural companies. The restrictions were proposed at the same time business groups sought removal of U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, remnants of the Sino-U.S. trade war.
Companies from Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran would be barred from purchasing U.S. agricultural land under language approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
The 2020 agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war set unrealistically high goals for U.S. exports to China and failed to deliver on them by large margins, say analysts. Overall, China bought just 57 percent of the goods and services it committed to buying as part of the “phase one” agreement. The agriculture sector, at 83 percent, came closest to reaching its export goal.
Exports of U.S. apples "have taken a big hit in recent years," with the Sino-U.S. trade war as a leading reason, said the U.S. Apple Association on Thursday. The trade group called on the Biden administration to remove U.S. tariffs on Chinese products so that China would eliminate its retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods that include apples.
Although China purchased a record amount of U.S. farm exports over the past two years, it wasn't enough to comply with the "phase one" agreement that de-escalated the Sino-U.S. trade war, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. "We obviously have some unfinished business with reference to phase one," Vilsack told lawmakers a day after President Biden pointed to Chinese shortfalls.
China accounted for 95 percent of the $27 billion in U.S. farm export sales that were lost in 2018 and 2019 as a result of the trade war begun by President Trump, said a USDA report. Sales to China rebounded after the "phase one" trade agreement, but U.S. market share has remained lower than before the tit-for-tat tariffs.
The cargo pileup at West Coast ports may have had a greater impact on farm exports from California than the Sino-U.S. trade war did, said three economists on Wednesday. They estimated losses of $2.1 billion in foreign sales during a five-month period because of port congestion, comparing that to economic losses of about $500 million for California agriculture during the first year of the trade war.
In the past two decades, China has shifted from a net exporter of agricultural products, with a trade surplus of $2.3 billion, to the world's largest importer, with a trade deficit of $100 billion, according to a review of Chinese membership in the World Trade Organization. The flood of imports obscures China's position as the fourth largest ag exporter in the world, trailing the European Union, the United States and Brazil.
China is buying less U.S. crops and livestock than expected, particularly soybeans, and America's ag exports are feeling the pinch. Sales are forecast at a highest-ever $175.5 billion this fiscal year, said the USDA on Tuesday, but just like the record set last year, the crest was not as high as it looked in the summer.
It's an open question if U.S. ag exports were as large as forecast in fiscal 2021, but a running tally by the USDA says they were the largest ever. Shipments to foreign buyers totaled $160.2 billion with one month to go in the fiscal year, topping the record of $156.8 billion set in fiscal 2014.
Speaking to a farm conference, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said China's adherence to its commitment to buy mammoth quantities of U.S. farm exports will be a test of the Asian nation's place in global relations. While China has buoyed commodity prices with its purchases, it is not on track to meet the goal of importing $43.6 billion worth of U.S. food, agricultural, and seafood products by the end of December.