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Dec 18 -- The Farm Service Agency (FSA) is requesting information on proposed revisions to the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Report (FSA–153 form). We will consider comments or information that we receive by February 16, 2024.

The FSA–153 requires updating. Specifically, the FSA–153 form needs clarification and updating to ensure that foreign owners (or long-term lessees) who are required to file the FSA–153 form have clear instructions and that USDA is collecting the most precise and meaningful data, so that the report to Congress is as accurate and insightful as possible. Foreign owners are investors who buy, sell, or hold a direct or indirect interest in U.S. agricultural land (or who hold long-term leases on agricultural land) and must report their holdings and transactions to USDA on the FSA–153 form. USDA uses the information on the submitted forms to generate the report that it submits to Congress. FSA is moving towards modernizing the collection of information process, clarifying and modernizing the FSA–153 form, and if funding becomes available, creating an electronic submission system that will allow foreign owners to report by filing electronically. In addition, this document requests public input for our plan to revise not only the information request, but ultimately, the regulation (which will likely result in further modifications at a later date to the FSA–153 form).

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978 (Pub. L. 95–460) requires “foreign persons” who hold, acquire, or dispose of an interest in U.S. agricultural land to report transactions and holdings to USDA through the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act Report (FSA–153 form) within 90 days of the transaction. In this document, we are using the term “foreign owners” to refer to the people, companies, governments, and others who are required to report their transactions and holdings to USDA. “Foreign owners” is an umbrella term that also includes long-term leaseholders (typically in the wind and solar industries).

In recent years, there has been great interest in the annual AFIDA report to Congress. Further, section 773 of title VII of the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2023 (7 U.S.C. 3501 note; Division A of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023; Pub. L. 117–328) requires the Secretary to establish a streamlined process for electronic submission and retention of disclosures made under AFIDA, as well as to create an internet database that contains disaggregated data from each disclosure submitted to USDA. In order to fulfill this mandate, FSA must collect the data that best captures all of the requirements of AFIDA with minimal burden on foreign owners. Until additional funding is available, or re-prioritization of funding occurs, FSA will continue to collect information through the paper-based FSA–153 form.

Given that the FSA–153 form has not been updated for years, an internal working group—composed of AFIDA headquarters specialists, information technology specialists, FSA field staff, and other USDA employees—met in the spring and summer of 2023 to discuss revisions to the form to gather more precise data to prepare for meeting the Section 773 mandate and to clarify and modernize the form. This document requests public input for our plan to revise the information collection request as part of our information collection request, which will be submitted to OMB to renew and revise their approval for OMB control number 0560–0097.

AFIDA data collection has operated in much the same way for the past 40 years. FSA administers AFIDA for the Secretary. Foreign owners can work through the FSA county office to fill out the form or, for more complex cases, directly with the AFIDA headquarters staff in the FPAC Business Center's Economic and Policy Analysis Division. Forms are typically filled out manually and mailed in hard copy to headquarters staff (whether originating in the FSA county office or received directly, in the case of complex situations, from foreign owners or their representatives). The AFIDA headquarters staff check all incoming reports for accuracy and completeness and work with the foreign owner (or FSA county office) if additional information is needed. The data from each FSA–153 form is then manually hand-entered in an in-house data system designed to produce the annual report to Congress. . . .

The annual report to Congress is available on: https://www.fsa.usda.gov/​programs-and-services/​economic-and-policy-analysis/​afida/​annual-reports/​index. The annual report contains information on the top-five countries holding different forms of agricultural land, the concentration of holdings geographically, and other information. . . .

[The FRN described proposed revisions and requests information on three topics: Geographic Context for the Location of the Land, Long-Term Leaseholds, and Impacts on Farms and Rural Communities.]

FSA has several general questions associated with the FSA–153 form, which are listed below:

(1) By regulation, reporting by foreign owners is required to the third tier of ownership. The form does not capture information on the ultimate owning country or countries. Should this information be captured?

(2) Should foreign owners be required to report beyond the third tier of ownership? If so, why?

(3) What ownership level should bear the reporting obligation?

(4) Should the FSA Farm Records and AFIDA definitions of “tract” be aligned? If so, why?

(5) Should parcels that are part of the same purchase or lease but are to be used differently—say, for agricultural vs. non-agricultural purposes—be treated differently by AFIDA? If so, how should the FSA–153 form be modified? Please provide examples and explain why.

(6) The AFIDA regulation currently provides a list of exemptions to reporting. Should filing be required in situations of contingent future interests? If so, what kind and what types should be exempted, if any? Should reporting be required under any circumstances for easements? Please explain.

(7) Should foreign owners be required to submit an amended FSA–153 form when land use changes within the agricultural category (say, if acres move from pastureland to cropland relative to the original reporting)?

FSA is requesting comments from all interested individuals and organizations on a revision to the currently approved information collection request associated with the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) of 1978.

FSA is proposing a modified FSA–153 form and an appendix A showing the tiers of ownership. The modified FSA–153 and Appendix A are available at the end of this notice . . . .
FRN: https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2023-27683

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