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US sees increase in foreign investment of US land

The US Department of Agriculture reported that foreign holdings in US forests and farmland increased by 6.7 percent in the last 10 months of 2010. The department report revealed that investors from Canada and the Netherlands have almost half of all foreign forest and farmland holdings in the US. Canadian holdings were mostly in timber companies.

In Maine, roughly 16 percent of privately owned land has foreign owners or leasers, almost twice that of any other state. The USDA reported Maine's foreign holdings grew by about 232,000 acres in 2010.

"We don't focus on where someone is from, in state or out of state," said Maine State Forester Douglas Denico. "We look at how they treat the forest."

In the US, around 24.2 million acres of privately held farm and forest land is owned or leased by companies with foreign investors, up more than 65 percent since 2004.

Stephen Raes, economic minister in the Netherlands embassy in Washington, D.C., said that longtime trade and economic ties between the US and the Netherlands account for the high level of land investment. According to a recent government study, the Dutch were overall the third-largest foreign investor in all US businesses. Dutch trade and investment in the US has created roughly 625,000 jobs in the US.

Mr Raes went onto say that Dutch pension funds are 130% of the size of Dutch Gross Domestic Product. The largest in the World relative to the size of the economy. Dutch pension funds are very conservative favouring investments in property and bonds.

Raes added that there was strong 19th-century settlement of Dutch farmers in Texas, Kansas and California, and that could account for continued interest in US farmland.

"There is indeed this long-term, strong relationship (between the US and the Netherlands), which is remarkable for a country that is one-third the size of Ohio," Raes said.

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