Economic Tidbits

Antelope County Has Greatest Share of Foreign-Owned Land . . .

A USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) report on foreign holdings of agricultural land shows most of the state’s foreign-held land is located in Antelope County (Figure 3). The county contains 253,000 acres owned by foreign persons or entities, roughly 36 percent the state’s foreign-owned land as of December 31, 2020. Banner and Holt Counties are distant second and third-ranked with 12 percent and 11 percent of the state’s foreign holdings respectively. In all, almost 60 percent of the state’s foreign-held land is located in these three counties. In contrast, 43 counties contain no foreign-owned agricultural land.

Figure 3. Percent of Foreign-Owned Land in Nebraska by County, Dec. 31, 2020

Source: NEFB graphic based on USDA FSA data

Just over 691,000 acres of private agricultural land in Nebraska are foreign-owned, or 1.5 percent of the state’s 45.5 million privately owned acres. Nearly 73 percent of the foreign-held acres are owned by Canadian investors. Italians owners follow with 21 percent. Almost all of the foreign-owned land is cropland.

The FSA reports 37.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural land are held by foreign persons or entities, 2.9 percent of all privately held land and 1.7 percent of all land. Forest land accounted for 46 percent of foreign-held acreage, cropland 29 percent, and pasture and other agricultural land 23 percent. Foreign ownership is concentrated in the South and West. Texas, Maine, and Alabama contain the largest number of acres. Canadian investors own the most land, 32 percent or 12.4 million acres, followed by investors from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany. Chinese investors own less than 1 percent of foreign-held acres, or just over 352,000 acres. The FSA notes a  greater interest by foreigners in U.S. agricultural land in recent years. It attributes the trend to a growing interest in land for wind energy development.

Nebraska law prohibits foreign persons or corporations from owning land located further than three miles outside a city or village for more than 5 years. Land purchased for manufacturing or industrial use or for the construction and operation of railroads, public utilities and common carriers is exempt. County attorneys are responsible for the enforcement of the prohibition.

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