Posted On: Wednesday - January 13th 2021 1:23PM MST
In Topics:   China  Economics  The Future
(continued from Part 1: Intro, Part 2: Housing, and Part 3: Big Biz.)
I do want to get to my conclusion on this, I swear, and now there are also a bunch more other posts I'd rather write first. However, Peak Stupidity likes to finish what we started. (Yes, we will complete that fisking of that feminist article that we started way on back in early September!) This post is about possible buying up of American rich farmland by Chinese people with fistfulls of dollars.
I refer the reader again to "There's a lot of ruin in a nation." - Part 3. I will admit my lowball estimate from that post was way too low, as Statista shows just > 30% of the US (slightly under 3 million mi2 of the contiguous US being farmland. I had estimated about 1/3 of that. I have a feeling that includes a lot of very marginal farmland. With all the near desert in the West (ranch land, if anything), and the mountainous areas, it just seems well too large. They are obviously including some poor pasture land. I'd estimated 10-15% and gotten only 300 million acres rather than the 900 million that Statista states.
The rich dark soil of the ex-tall-grass-prairie States*, and the California central valley, and a few other small areas with great farmland, add up by my estimate** to 300 - 500 thousand mi2. That's around my 10-15% of the contiguous US per my old post, and this is the good stuff. For these States, such as Illinois and Iowa, with almost nothing but good farmland, it was pretty easy to look up average cropland prices. In general, the web comes up with $7,500 +/- $500 per acre. States with a mix of tough farm land and some good, such as Georgia, Alabama, Miss., and Louisiana, you see from $2,000/acre to $4,000/acre for cropland. Sure, you've got the Willamette Valley in Oregon (~ 5,500 mi2), the smaller Snoqualmie Valley in Washington, and other river valleys with some fertile soil, but they don't add up to much.
Let's take all that rich farmland, at the top end, 300 million acres, at $8,000/acre (going up as I type), and the rest, 600 million acres at $3,000/acre. We get, wah-lah, America has around $4 Trillion bucks in farmland. That is quadruple my old estimate because a) Land has gone up and b) My previous estimate was only including the good stuff, and c) I'd lowballed it before, and for this one I've gone to the high side.
How much American [sic] farmland do foreigners own right now? Freedom Outpost (May '19 article) says 30 million acres. That is only 3.3%. No problem, right? How about just China? The same author on the same site, one Michael Snyder, has no numbers in his '14 article, which is more of a (perfectly fine) rant: Chinese Buying Land In US Communities All Over America. There are no numbers there, so is this a real problem?
Now consider this:
It looks to me like a less than a decade of China's pocketing this money, as a conservative hard-working couple would on a house down payment, would do it. Unlike the conservative couple striving to purchase that nice cottage on the top of Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, for China, this would be enough for it all, not just a down payment. We will suffer greatly if this goes on any longer.
Again, one can bring up proposed new law against the purchase by foreigners, well not for the next 2 years, I'm sure, and that sort of thing. The money talks though. Even if indirectly, the American Fruited Plain of song and story*** can be controlled by the Communist Party of China. How's that future strike you?
I'll get to more of the speculation about the future of this in the conclusion, but there's got to be one more part, I realized, on the preserved wild lands of America.
PS: Well, I like doing the back-of-the-envelope calculations on my own, but it was about 1/2 hour of work looking things up this time. Then, I just did the obvious (well, non-obvious to me, apparently!) and looked it up. I came up with a Statista page again as number 1 (duckduckgo) and it says $2.7 Trillion, but this counts farm buildings too, which I've got no problem with. Not bad, as that was between my low and high. This number is for '18.
* This what the wetter side of the Great Plains was called vs. the dryer short-grass prairie farther west back in the day. The eastern portion of what we now called "the Great Plains" was the Prairie, and the western portion was the Plains.
** I took nearly the whole land area of whole States like Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, etc. and parts of others, plus that CA central valley.
*** It's the name of this non-fiction book about American farming that I read long ago - I lost the library book at a laundromat on a long road trip ... across the fruited plain.
Ha! Even amazon doesn't have this one available themselves, or even a review from when books were their main thing. I wonder if one of the 15 resellers got that book from that laundromat in Grand Junction, Colorado back in the 1990s. I can see an email coming. "Give me back my book, you bastard! I was busy loading the whites and just forgot."