Maui Discussion

Maui No. 2 For Foreign-Owned Ag Lands in Hawai`i

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By Dave Smith

Nationwide, Hawai`i has the second-largest percentage of its agriculture land held by foreign investors, according to a recent survey by the US Department of Agriculture.

Maui. File photo courtesy A&B Properties.

Maui. File photo courtesy A&B Properties.

The study, which represents information through the end of 2011, said that of the 1.8 million acres of privately held agricultural land in the Aloha State, 158,887 acres, or 8.8%, is owned by foreign interests.

There is just over 4 million acres of land in Hawaii, more than half of which is owned by the state and federal governments.


Only Maine has a higher percentage of its farm lands owned by foreign investors, at 16%. Hawaii is followed by Washington (7.6%), Alabama (5.4%) and Florida (5.3%).

In terms of total acreage, Texas has the largest amount of foreign-held agricultural land in the US with nearly 2.9 million acres, which represents just under 2% of privately-owned agricultural land in that state.

Most of the foreign-held agriculture land in Hawai`i, 78,852 acres, is pasture land.


The country whose residents have the largest holdings of Hawaii agriculture land is the Netherlands with 37,410 acres, followed by the United Kingdom at 3,128 acres.

Broken down by counties, Hawaii County has the most land owned by foreign citizens at 96,082 acres, or about 4% of its more than 2.5 million acres. Of that foreign-owned land, all but 1,197 acres is agricultural with 34,149 acres in cropland, 27,332 acres in pasture and 30,664 acres in other agricultural uses.

There are a total of 75 parcels of land on the Big Island which are foreign-owned, the report said.


Maui County had the second-most foreign-owned land with 53,323 acres.

While most of the Big Island’s large subdivisions consist of agriculturally zoned lots, those are apparently not counted in the report which defined “agriculture land” as tracts of land exceeding 10 acres in size currently used, or previously used in the prior five years, for farming, ranching or timber production.

The agency said that in the US, forest land accounted for 54% of all foreign-held agricultural acreage, cropland for 19%, and pasture and other agricultural land for 27%.

The USDA tallied the data in compliance with the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978, which mandates that foreign investors report their interest in US agriculture lands.


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