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Foreign investors must report U.S. ag land holdings

January 15, 2008

Colleen Cashell, executive director of the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency in Washington County, has issued a reminder to foreign investors with an interest in agricultural lands in the United States that they are required to report their holdings and any transactions to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.

"Any foreign person who acquires or transfers any interest, other than a security interest, in agricultural land in the United States is required by law to report the transaction no later than 90 days after the date of the transaction," Cashell said.

Foreign investors must file Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act reports with the Farm Service Agency County Office that maintains reports for the county where the land sits. For disclosure purposes, agricultural land is defined as any land used for farming, ranching or timber production, if the tracts total 10 acres or more.

"Failure to file a report, filing a late report or filing an inaccurate report can result in a penalty with fines up to 25 percent of the fair market value of the agricultural land," Cashell said.

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Disclosure reports are also required when there are changes in land use. For example, reports are required when land use changes from nonagricultural to agricultural or from agricultural to nonagricultural.

"Foreign investors must also file a report when there is a change in the status of ownership such as owner changes from foreign to nonforeign, from nonforeign to foreign or from foreign to foreign," Cashell said.

When the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act was signed into law in 1978, the reporting requirement was adopted as part of the same legislation. Data gained from these disclosures is used in the preparation of periodic reports to the president and Congress concerning the effect of such holdings upon family farms and rural communities in the U.S. For more information regarding the disclosure reports and farm service programs, contact the USDA Service Center.

In Washington County, visit 1260 Maryland Ave., Suite 107, Hagerstown, MD 21740 or call 301-797-0500, ext. 2, or visit the USDA Web sites at http://www.fsa.usda.gov.

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