American Soil’ Is Increasingly Foreign Owned

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May 27, 20194:17 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered
RENEE WILDE

FROM
WYSO

A loaded combine harvester during a late corn harvest in Hamilton, Ohio.
John Minchillo/AP
American soil.

Those are two words that are commonly used to stir up patriotic feelings. They are also words that can’t be taken for granted, because today nearly 30 million acres of U.S. farmland are held by foreign investors. That number has doubled in the past two decades, which is raising alarm bells in farming communities.

When the stock market tanked during the past recession, foreign investors began buying up big swaths of U.S. farmland. And because there are no federal restrictions on the amount of land that can be foreign owned, it’s been left up to individual states to decide on any limitations.

It’s likely that even more American land will end up in foreign hands, especially in states with no restrictions on ownership. With the median age of U.S. farmers at 55, many face retirement with no prospect of family members willing to take over. The National Young Farmers Coalition anticipates that two-thirds of the nation’s farmland will change hands in the next few decades.

“Texas is kind of a free-for-all, so they don’t have a limit on how much land can be owned,” say’s Ohio Farm Bureau’s Ty Higgins. “You look at Iowa and they restrict it — no land in Iowa is owned by a foreign entity.”

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Ohio, like Texas, also has no restrictions, and nearly half a million acres of prime farmland are held by foreign-owned entities. In the northwestern corner of the state, below Toledo, companies from the Netherlands alone have purchased 64,000 acres for wind farms.

There are two counties in this region with the highest concentration of foreign-owned farmland — more than 41,000 acres each. One of those is Paulding County, where three wind farms straddle the Ohio-Indiana line.

Once a foreign entity buys up however many acres they want, Americans might never be able to secure that land again. So, once we lose it, we may lose it for good.

Ty Higgins

Higgins says that this kind of consumption of farmland by foreign entities is starting to cause concern. “One of the main reasons that we’re watching this … is because once a foreign entity buys up however many acres they want, Americans might never be able to secure that land again. So, once we lose it, we may lose it for good.”

His other concern is that every acre of productive farmland that is converted over to something other than agriculture is an acre of land that no longer produces food. That loss is felt from the state level all the way down to rural communities, where one in six Ohioans has ties to agriculture.

Angela Huffman is a sixth-generation farmer in Wyandot County, which, along with Paulding County, has more than 41,000 acres of foreign-owned farmland. Her modest, two-story white farmhouse has been in her family for almost 200 years. Her grandfather was the last person to actively farm the land here. When he got out of farming due to declining markets, none of his five children wanted to take over, and the cropland is now leased.

But Huffman, a young millennial who lives here with her mother, wants to try to keep the farm going and revive her family heritage.

Walking out to the barn, a huge white Great Pyrenees dog watches over a small flock of sheep. Huffman says she’s worried about the effects of foreign land ownership on her rural community — which she describes as similar to Walmart pushing local businesses out of the market.

“Right out my back door here, Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, has recently bought out a couple grain elevators,” Huffman says, pointing across the field behind her house, “basically extracting the wealth out of the community.”

To be fair, U.S. farmers and corporations also invest in overseas agriculture, owning billions of dollars of farmland from Australia to Brazil, but the Smithfield Food buyout has really raised concerns with American farmers. As part of that 2013 sale, a Chinese company now owns 146,000 acres of prime U.S. farmland.

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Back in the Huffman farmhouse, Joe Maxwell is typing on a laptop at the kitchen table. Maxwell is a fourth-generation farmer from Missouri. He and Huffman are part of the Organization for Competitive Markets, an advocacy group of farmers and ranchers across the nation.

Maxwell points to the Smithfield Foods elevators across the field: “The money that those elevators used to make stayed within the community. Today the money those elevators make will go into the pocket of someone thousands of thousands of miles away. This is going on across America.”

Maxwell is concerned that, as other states put restrictions on foreign purchases in place, Ohio in particular is being targeted. “So when they’re looking for investments in the U.S. and agriculture,” he says, “Ohio’s a great ag state, and you don’t have any restrictions like other states.”

Nationwide, Canadian investors own the most farmland. In Ohio, it’s Germany, with 71,000 acres.

On the southern central part of the state, John Trimmer manages 30,000 acres of corn and soybeans for German investors. He’s been working with German families that have wanted to get into U.S. agriculture since the 1980s. “They started to buy land in Iowa and Minnesota,” Trimmer explains, “but right when they started, [Iowa and Minnesota] passed state laws which restricted foreign ownership.”

“None of them have an interest in the farm.”

Instead, the Germans turned to Ohio.

But, Trimmer says, there is a misconception about foreign owners — that they aren’t good neighbors or good stewards of the land. What he sees is a growing divide between older family members who still live on the farm, and their children who have no interest in the family business and want to cash out the land.

“The last two farms we bought here, through an owner, her and her brothers and sisters inherited it from their mother, and none of them wanted to farm. None of them have an interest in the farm.” Trimmer explains that his German clients have established a reputation in the community for letting the tenants — often aging parents or grown children — continue to live in the houses on the farms they buy.

Sellers work directly with his German clients — instead of putting the property up on the market, the sale ensures that family members can live out their lives in the family homestead, while still getting cash value for the farmland.


North Korean teenager crosses DMZ to defect

By Jen Kwon, Asia Producer

A North Korean soldier has made a rare bid to defect to South Korea by crossing the demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two countries.

The teenager walked up to a South Korean guard post in Gangwon province’s Hwacheon county around 8.00am local time (23.00 GMT) after walking across the world’s most heavily militarised border.

No gunfire was exchanged as the soldier approached guards and expressed his wish to defect, officials from the South Korean Defence Ministry said.

“We’ve confirmed his will to defect after he reached our guard post,” a ministry spokesman said.

The soldier was taken into custody and an investigation has been launched by South Korean officials.

More than 1,000 North Korean soldiers defect to the South every year, although it is rare for anybody to attempt to cross the heavily mined DMZ.

Most defectors travel to South Korea via China. The last crossing via the DMZ took place in 2012.

Lee Yun-keol, chairman of the North Korea Strategy Information Service, said: “We had recently heard news that North Korea has been installing mines around the DMZ to prevent people from fleeing to South Korea.

“Also, since the 38th parallel was drawn, only a little over 10 people have succeeded to cross over to the South through the DMZ.”

The DMZ is 4km (2.49 miles) wide and is fortified with landmines and barbed wire.

Defectors have previously told Sky News of their lives inside North Korea and their difficult journeys to flee the country.

Casey Lartigue is the co-founder of the volunteer organisation Teach North Korean Refugees (TNKR), an NGO that connects North Korean refugees with people who can help them.

Mr Lartigue told Sky News many defectors struggle to adjust to South Korean society.

“They have made it to South Korea – a challenging process, not everyone survives – and they often suffer hardship along the way,” he said.

“From what I hear, South Korea certainly welcomes them, but after getting out of North Korea, they don’t consider themselves to be limited to South Korea.

“While saying they are thankful to have escaped North Korea and to have been accepted by South Korea, they will still say that South Korea is more of a struggle than they imagined.”

The defection comes as North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un witnessed the testing of a new anti-ship rocket.

South Korea announced that the North had fired three KN-01 missiles from its eastern border town of Wonsan in to the East Sea on Sunday.

Mr Kim hailed the rocket as “another fresh milestone” in bolstering the country’s naval power following the testing of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

The South’s defence ministry said the North had tested three short-range missiles with a range of nearly 62 miles (100km) on Sunday off its east coast.

“North Korea appears to be developing new missiles that would replace its old Soviet-designed anti-ship missiles,” ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok told reporters.


Fusion Cells Leading to Cancer?

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Copyright: Medical News Today

As the number two leading cause of death in the US, cancer touches just about everyone in some way. There are many factors involved in the formation of cancer, and genetic changes are a key culprit. Now, a new study sheds light on how the fusion of one normal cell with another can trigger genomic events that turn normal cells cancerous, allowing tumors to form.

According to the American Cancer Society, in the US in 2015, around 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed, and over 589,000 individuals will die from the disease.

To further investigate causes for this ubiquitous condition, researchers from the University of Michigan and the Mayo Clinic undertook a study that is published in The American Journal of Pathology.

They note that exposure to carcinogens and infectious agents can trigger spontaneous genetic mutations that arise when cells divide. Some researchers, however, believe that the link between carcinogens and genetic changes are too uncertain to account fully for the development of common cancers.

However, researchers have suspected that cell fusion – the process whereby one or more cells combine to form a new cell with multiple nuclei – is a potential cause for some cancers, providing a reason why multiple genetic changes appear to underpin cancer development.

But there has been a lack of clear evidence that normal cell fusion alone could trigger cancer – until now, that is. In their latest study, the researchers show the missing link between cell fusion and the multiple genetic changes that transform normal cells into cancerous cells.

Additionally, the team has been able to show how, when injected into live animals, these fused cells form tumors.

‘Cell fusion generates chromosomal instability’

To conduct their study, the researchers used rat IEC-6 intestinal epithelial cells. They explain that these cells maintain a “stable diploid genomic structure” (one with two sets of chromosomes), replicate normally and lack the cellular features of cancer cells. These cells also do not form tumors when observed over several generations.

The team labeled the IEC-6 cells with either red or green dyes and then exposed them to 50% polyethylene glycol to facilitate cell fusion. The researchers could then determine if the cells had fused by noting the presence of both the red and green dyes within one cell.

While non-fused cells only contained one color, the researchers also noted that fused cells were larger than their non-fused counterparts.

Results reveal that fused cells can replicate – 19% of fused IEC-6 cells generated clones – and with replication, the chromosomes from the two separate cells fused together.

Additionally, the researchers found that 41% of the clones had abnormal numbers of chromosomes, 56% were near-diploid and 4% were tetraploid. In contrast, 86% of the non-fused cells were diploid.

Dr. Jeffrey L. Platt, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, says their results “indicate that cell fusion generates chromosomal instability,” which refers to changes in the appearance and number of chromosomes. Because such abnormalities are typically observed in cancer, the team looked for DNA damage in the fused clones and found such damage in significantly more fused clones than non-fused clones.

They say their findings suggest that after cells fuse, a chromosomal instability might result in DNA damage and, therefore, genetic changes that underpin cancer.

Commenting on their findings, cancer specialist William B. Coleman, PhD, from the University of North Carolina Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, says:

“The frequency of cell fusion events in vivo is not known, although cell fusion is thought to occur under some circumstances such as cell injury, inflammation and viral infection. Although fusion of normal cells in vitro and in vivo may be a rare event, this study shows that cell fusion between normal cells can have pathological consequences.”

He adds that their results “provide evidence for another molecular mechanism driving neoplastic transformation – genomic catastrophe.”

Fused cells form tumors in mice

Interestingly, the team also found that when they transplanted IEC-6 cells into immunodeficient mice, during 12 weeks, they generated tumors in 61% of the hosts. In contrast, no tumors formed from the cells that did not fuse.

“We believe one cell fusion event can both initiate malignancy and fuel evolution of the tumor that ensues,” says lead author Xiaofeng Zhou, from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Dr. Coleman also adds that most cases of human spontaneous cancer are believed to come from cells that underwent random DNA damage or random errors during replication.

He calls for further research to determine whether cell fusion events between normal human cell types can bring about genomic catastrophe and neoplastic transformation.

Last week, Medical News Today reported on two studies that suggested immunotherapy is highly effective against cancer.


Supreme Court says no in Jerusalem passport case.

By Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter
Updated 12:48 PM ET, Mon June 8, 2015
(CNN)—The Supreme Court struck down part of a federal statute Monday that allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to record in their passport “Israel” as the place of birth.

The 6-3 decision is a victory for the Executive, and a loss for Congress and the 12-year-old boy caught in the middle of a separation of powers dispute.

For the last 60 years, the United States policy has been to recognize no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion, held that “over the last 100 years, there has been scarcely any debate over the President’s power to recognize foreign states.” Kennedy said that it was “clear” that in the statute at issue in the case,” Congress wanted to express its displeasure with the President’s policy, by among other things, commanding the Executive to contradict his own, early stated position on Jerusalem. This Congress cannot do.”

Kennedy said that the President has the exclusive power to grant formal recognition to a foreign sovereign and said that the law infringes on the Executive’s “consistent” decision to withhold recognition with respect to Jerusalem.

“Recognition is an act with immediate and powerful significance for international relations, so the President’s position must be clear. Congress cannot require him to contradict his own statement regarding a determination of formal recognition,” Kennedy wrote for the Court’s majority.

In dissent were Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Samuel Alito.

READ: SCOTUS rules in favor of man convicted of posting threatening messages on Facebook

Roberts, in a dissent joined by Alito, said “Today’s decision is a first: Never before has this Court accepted a President’s direct defiance of an Act of Congress in the field of foreign affairs.”

Roberts said “the statue at issue does not implicate recognition” but “simply gives an American citizen born in Jerusalem the option to designate his place of birth as Israel for the purposes of passports and other documents.”

Scalia took the rare step of reading part of his dissent from the bench, which was joined by Roberts and Alito, saying that the law at issue “merely requires the State Department to list a citizen’s birthplace as Israel” and does not require the President to make “any other kind of legal commitment.”

“Today, the Supreme Court confirmed something that lower courts and scholars had long assumed—that the power to recognize foreign governments (and their territory) resides exclusively with the Executive Branch,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, an analyst for CNN and a law professor of the American University Washington College of Law. “This is not only a landmark win for presidential power over foreign affairs, but a rather decisive loss for Congress—which passed the statute at issue entirely to thwart a half-century-old Executive Branch policy,” he said.

Legal experts have been closely watching the case eager to see how the Court would resolve the separation of powers dispute.

Caught in the middle was a 12-year-old boy, Menachem Zivotofsky. When he was born his parents sought to have “Israel” listed on his U.S. passport as his place of birth pursuant to a federal law. But the State Department refused.

For the last 60 years, the United States policy has been to recognize no state as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. In 2002 when Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, President George W. Bush signed the law but issued a statement saying he objected to section 214 at issue in today’s case.

In Court, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli said that Congress can’t use its authority to regulate passports “to command the Executive branch to issue diplomatic communication that contradicts the government’s official position on recognition.”

He noted that the question of the status of Jerusalem “is the most vexing and volatile and difficult diplomatic issue that this nation has faced for decades.”

“The nations in the region, and frankly people around the world and governments around the world scrutinize every word that comes out of the United States Government and every action that the United States Government takes in order to see whether we can continue to be trusted as an honest broker who could stand apart from this conflict and help bring it to resolution,” he said.

But Zivotofsky’s lawyers framed the case differently. Alyza D. Lewin said the case is not about formal recognition, but simply how an American is identified on his or her passport.

“We do not claim this is recognition,” she said at oral arguments.

Justice Elena Kagan seemed to side with the State Department at oral arguments.

“History suggests,” she said, “that everything is a big deal with respect to the status of Jerusalem. And right now, Jerusalem is a tinderbox because of issues about the status of and access to a particular holy site there.”

Scalia argued the other side saying that Congress is entitled to do what is authorized under the Constitution and “the fact that the State Department doesn’t like the fact that it makes the Palestinians angry is irrelevant.”

The 12-year-old boy was in court to hear arguments on the major separation of powers case that featured his name. After arguments he told reporters, “I’m an Israeli, and I want people to know that I’m glad to be an Israeli.”