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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U.S. Prepares Tariffs On Additional $300B Of Imported Chinese Goods
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.


Kids, Divorce, And Manipulation: Parents Who Use Kids As Weapons

high conflict divorce and kids

In divorce, narcissistic parents often buffer the pain of a failed marriage by trying to destroy their ex’s relationship with the children. Unlike healthy parents, who aim to work themselves out of a job by preparing children to live independently, a narcissist sees their kids as extensions of themselves. They cannot tolerate the thought that their children might grow up to chart their own course.

Sharing child custody loosens narcissists’ sense of control. They become terrified that their children might love the other parent more, or be more like that parent. How do they try to regain control? Often, it’s to embark on a mission to get the children back on their “side.”

Some narcissistic parents may actually believe the other parent is evil, and may view themselves as their child’s rescuer. Some may simply have more Machiavellian intentions. Either way, a narcissistic parent won’t hesitate to use children as weapons in the battle against their ex as a way to amp up an already high conflict divorce. Does this describe your ex? Here’s how to tell.

Signs Of A Manipulative Parent

Inappropriate communication Narcissists in their words and actions, often send their children the message that it’s not okay to enjoy time with the other parent. A narcissistic parent will get angry or distraught when kids return from time spent with the other parent – especially if they’ve have had a good time.

Interferes with visitation. A narcissistic parent will give the children choices about visitation or manipulate them into refusing visitation: “Would you rather go to Disneyland or spend a boring weekend stuck at your mom’s?”

Makes up or distorts information. A narcissistic parent will put her own “spin” on details to brainwash the child into thinking the other parent is dangerous or incompetent.

Shares adult-only information about the marriage and divorce. The manipulative parent may even alter the truth in order to get the kids to blame the other parent: “Dad says you wanted the divorce.”

Poor boundaries. A manipulative parent aligns with the child against the other parent. She will not let her kids have their own feelings and experiences. If she hates the ex, the kids must too.

Uses the child as a messenger. “Mom says I don’t have to like your girlfriend/visit your mother/make my own lunch.”

Monitors the kids’ phone conversations with the other parent. A manipulative parent will listen and/or tell the child what to say. If the child is at the other parent’s house, the manipulative parent might try to monopolize his child’s visit with that parent by frequent or lengthy phone conversations at, say, dinnertime.

Threats of self-harm. In extreme situations, manipulative parents will threaten suicide if they don’t get what they want, i.e. sole custody.

Children of divorce who are manipulated by parents suffer long-term psychological consequences. They may have trouble recognizing or feeling entitled to their own feelings. As adults, they may feel smothered in romantic relationships because of growing up with an enmeshed parent. They learn how to create drama, not resolve conflict, so they often duplicate the same tumultuous interpersonal style.

Yet children of manipulative parents can be helped with appropriate interventions, including parents agreeing to a model know as parallel parenting. In an upcoming post, we will discuss strategies for protecting kids whose parents use them as weapons.

high conflict divorce and kids


Veterans say VA Policy on Marijuana and Painkillers Lacking Consistency

Austin American-Statesman | Jun 15, 2015 | by Jeremy Schwartz

Since early 2013, Vietnam veteran Bill Williams had received daily doses of hydrocodone to help him deal with chronic leg and back pain. For more than 30 years, he has taken anti-anxiety drugs like Valium to help with the post-traumatic stress disorder he developed after a lengthy tour on a Navy submarine.

Occasionally, the 62-year-old Brackettville resident would smoke marijuana, which he said provided relief for his pain and PTSD in ways the pharmaceuticals could not. His experience with that drug, which he said also helped him sleep, mirrors that of a growing number of veterans who have turned to medical marijuana as an alternative to traditional treatments.

At first, he said, his Department of Veterans Affairs doctors tolerated his marijuana use, telling him that if it helped his symptoms he should continue. But that changed with the introduction of stricter VA policies on narcotic painkillers, the result of new Drug Enforcement Administration rules on hydrocodone and a VA push to reduce the number of patients receiving the medications.

In April, after he tested positive for marijuana, the VA canceled his hydrocodone prescription.

The incident is emblematic of a brewing battle over marijuana use among veterans suffering with chronic pain and anxiety disorders and the VA’s evolving, sometimes confusing, position as more states legalize the drug.

“There is no consistency, even in the states where it’s legal,” said Roger Martin, executive director of Grow4Vets, which advocates for marijuana treatment of pain and PTSD.

As a federal agency, the VA is in an unusual position. It recognizes marijuana possession as a federal offense, but its policy doesn’t prohibit veterans who get state-sanctioned medical marijuana from participating in VA pain control programs.

And officials say a positive marijuana test doesn’t automatically result in an opioid prescription cancellation, but should cause doctors to assess patients for “misuse, adverse effects and withdrawal.” The decision to halt opioid drugs when a patient uses marijuana “need(s) to be made by individual providers in partnership with their patients,” the agency’s policy states.

But in states such as Texas, where marijuana isn’t legal, the VA’s policy is less clear. Asked specifically about marijuana use by Texas patients, VA officials couldn’t provide clarification.

Williams’ doctor at the San Antonio VA, for example, told him that the agency’s policies provided no wiggle room. “Due to the presence of the marijuana, based on current VA practice guidelines, I am unable to prescribe further controlled substances (hydrocodone) at this time,” he wrote in a letter to Williams.

Martin said his group has heard from a number of veterans like Williams who say their painkiller prescriptions have been abruptly canceled in recent months because of marijuana use.

“It’s a flat-out violation of the Hippocratic oath,” he said. “It puts veterans and the people around them in danger.”

Pain specialist Dr. C.M. Schade, director emeritus of the Texas Pain Society, said that civilian doctors in Texas must halt narcotic prescriptions for patients who test positive for controlled substances; they can be resumed once the patient stops taking the illegal drug or enters treatment.

Williams said he stopped smoking marijuana months before his positive test, which he blamed on secondhand smoke from toking friends, but he acknowledged previous positive tests. But he said that shouldn’t disqualify him from receiving the pain medication he needs to function on a daily basis, especially if it is allowed in states like Colorado and Washington.

He recently underwent a procedure to burn the nerve endings in his back, which should give him relief for several months, but he fears for the future.

“What’s scaring me is that in (the coming) months, when I’m going to need pain medication, are they going to give it to me?” he said. “I’m not a person that’s going to go beg the VA for pain meds. I have a high tolerance for pain. But once those nerves grow back I won’t be able to live with it.”

Related Topics
Department of Veteran Affairs, PTSD

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