Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has introduced legislation that would restrict corporate ownership and leasing of farmland in an effort to better protect family farmers and rural communities.
"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," Mr. Booker said in a news release announcing the bill July 27. "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. "
Specifically, the bill would "restrict corporations, multilayered subsidiaries, pension funds and investment funds from purchasing or leasing agricultural land," the news release said. While these corporations would be able to keep the land they already own, they would be restricted from future access to Agriculture Department and Farm Credit System programs and benefits.
The bill would exempt corporations with less than 25 shareholders, partners, members or beneficial owners who are all active in farming; farmer cooperatives; non-profit corporations; or legal entities formed by owners of inherited property.
For corporations that violate these new restrictions, the bill would authorize penalties for them, as well as bolster state authority to regulate domestic and foreign corporations that own farmland.
"Concentrated land ownership is one of the root causes of inequality in rural communities and beyond, and growing financial investments in farmland will only make this issue worse," said Barry Lynn, executive director of the Open Markets Institute, in the news release. "Restricting corporate and investor control over farmland is essential to creating a democratic, and community-controlled food system."
The bill has support from more than 20 agricultural and farming organizations, including the National Family Farm Coalition, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.