Foreigners own 1 million+ acres of Georgia ag land

Georgia is among nine states where foreign interests own more than 1 million acres of land deemed agricultural, according to a recent report by The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting.

The roster of foreign owners shows companies or individuals from at least 39 countries own Georgia crop, pasture, timberland or other land.

Companies from tiny Liechtenstein own 6,398 acres. Interests in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia have 2,074 acres. German interests report owning about 225,000 acres. Georgia has also attracted investments from Japan, China, Sweden, Peru, Greece, Guyana, Canada, Australia and Cayman Islands, among the 39 countries listed in data obtained by the center.

Under a 1978 federal law, foreign interests must file reports with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on transactions involving agricultural land. The Midwest Center used a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain the information, which covers the years from 1900 to 2014.

Much of the foreign investment was in Georgia timberland, which accounted for 877,126 acres in the report.

But the report also lists land owned by French mining company Imery’s. Imery’s Clays, Imery’s Kaolin and Imery’s Marble are listed as owned 39,481 acres in Georgia, valued at about $53 million. Imery’s is one of the world’s largest producers of kaolin, one of Georgia’s largest natural resources.

Cropland accounted for almost 70,000 acres, and pastureland about 19,000.

A number of states restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land. Georgia is not among them, though. State law had required “alien” corporations to have a registered office and agent in the state, but that law was repealed in 2015.

Read more of The Midwest Center’s findings by clicking here:

There you can also find its listing of foreign owners of Georgia properties, including land in Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and other metro-Atlanta counties.

The Midwest Center cautioned that the USDA does not verify the data, and that it has some errors. Because it relies on self-reporting, it also has gaps. For example, it doesn’t list the country of foreign owners of more than 1 million acres.