Fed Pays Foreign Investors to Own U.S. Farmland

For years, Rex Bailey III, a rugged 6-foot-5 rice farmer, sharecropped near Angleton, Tex., an arrangement in which he and his landlord divided the costs and shared in profits and government payments.

“It was all based on what was produced,” he said. “We shared the risk.”

That changed in 2002, when the owners of one tract changed their arrangement with Bailey, 55, from sharecropping to a fixed annual rent, pegged to capture the $90 an acre that the government was paying him on 214 acres.

“A lot of landlords increased their rental rates to equal or exceed the direct payments,” Bailey said. “They know what the payment is, so that’s what the rent is. Even though the payment is in my name, I turn around and give it to” the owner.

In 2004, the property was sold to Shin Shan Chu, an elderly investor who lives in Vancouver, Canada. Once a year, Bailey, who still grows rice on part of the 4,000 acres, cuts a $25,000 check and sends it to Chu, whom he has never met.

Reached by telephone, Chu said he hoped to eventually “develop some residential buildings there. It’s very nice land, very flat, very close to the city.”

Chu, who also owns and leases 17,000 acres of farmland in west Texas, grew up in mainland China and Taiwan, worked in electronics and moved to Vancouver 36 years ago. He described himself as nearly 80.

“It’s just an investment,” he said of his farm holdings. “I’m waiting for the money.”

Full Story: Farm Program Pays $1.3 Billion to People Who Don’t Farm
Washington Post

By Dan Morgan, Gilbert M. Gaul and Sarah Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, July 2, 2006

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The larger the government, the smaller the individual.
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