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The World's Impact on our Land in the United States

This interview is also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

“Globalization doesn’t quite mean the same thing today that it did 10, 15 years ago,” Willis Sparks told American Farmland Owner. Sparks is the global macro director for the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical risk company with offices across the world.  

In other words, this isn’t your grandparents’ farmland. Sparks reminds clients these days how increasingly connected the world is…how the geopolitical climate, wars and weather can impact a Kansas wheat producer, a Louisiana cotton grower, a sweet potato farmer in North Carolina or someone who invests in the farmland that is connected to any of those people.


· Joined Eurasia Group: 2005

· Former transnational terrorism and U.S. national security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations

· Former stuntman, New York’s Metropolitan Opera

Risk is everywhere but risk is also an opportunity, Sparks believes. But a knowledge of what is happening in the world and what that could mean are keys to planning.

“There are a lot of people who are looking to do business or invest in other countries, in other markets,” Sparks said, “…people looking to buy farmland who know that there’s a lot of risk that’s being created halfway across the world that they need to understand.”

Risk is complicated. “We help people understand the way the politics of individual countries or the big global political trends…like the kind I talk about…are having a direct impact on their businesses and, therefore, on their lives,” Sparks said.

RELATED: Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, addressed what he considers the main factors in the geopolitical landscape. Watch that speech here. 

The Hamas attack on Israel and the Israeli counterresponse, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s alleged theft of intellectual property/authoritarian rule/spy balloons over the United States all present threats in the global agricultural environment.

Sparks believes that changing weather patterns also play a major role as they affect potential production, along with serving as a catalyst in mass migration.

“I’m concerned that because of a lot of this political upheaval that we’re going through in this transition in international politics, plus changing weather patterns that have to do with climate change, plus other structural factors, we’re going to have more and more people on the move in the years to come,” Sparks said.

And he thinks that politicians’ refusal to address migration – both Democrats and Republicans – for decades has created an almost untenable climate where partisans see no immediate political benefit in committing to real policy changes. Those refusals not only impact the immigration system and border security but also further strain the labor supply that farmland owners need if they want to have success in this global agricultural market.

“If we don’t start thinking seriously about what we’re going to do about that and stop treating it as sort of a political thing that we can raise money off and club the other side…I honestly think in this country…I don’t see either party coming up with serious proposals about how we’re going to intelligently manage immigration policies at the southern border,” Sparks said. “I think it’s too good a political issue for both sides to beat each other up with and the problem is going to become too big for that…not just in this country but in a lot of other countries.”

RELATED: PBS produced this special report on what is causing the surge in migrants at the southern border of the United States. Watch that here. 

Most migrants are moving to flee a dangerous home country because of gangs or violence. Others are fleeing because of changing weather patterns that have left their countries unable to provide enough food. Sparks said, “A lot of these people are just families that can’t raise their kids in a safe place…that are trying to figure out, “Where can I have a stable life?’ ‘I don’t necessarily have to live in this country or that country. I want food for my family. I want my kids to grow up in a place where they can get an education and not have to join a gang and not get killed.’”

Since both political parties have failed in the United States to commit to improving this situation – in whatever way they believe could be a solution – Sparks agrees that it might be the business community that eventually rises and demands action from Congress and a president because of what is at stake for America’s future.

NOTE: Willis Sparks will be a keynote speaker at the 17th Annual Land Investment Expo in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, on January 9th, 2024, where he will discuss the biggest global threats and how they could impact farmland owners in 2024.


To check out the full list of speakers, unique experiences and to register, click here. 


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