South Dakota lawmakers announced a plan to more closely scrutinize foreign purchases of farmland from investors from antagonistic countries such as China.
According to USDA data, foreign nationals in the Mount Rushmore State boosted their land holdings from over 307,000 acres in 2019 to even more than 356,000 acres in 2020, giving them control of 0.9% of the state’s agricultural property. Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) declared her support for legislation that would create the Committee on Foreign Investments in the Country for South Dakota (CFIUS-SD) to investigate potential foreign acquisitions of agricultural land.
“With this new approach, we will be able to prevent countries who despise us, such as Communist China, from purchasing our state’s agricultural land,” she said in a news statement. “We cannot continue to enable the Chinese Communist Party to buy up our country’s food supply, thus South Dakota will lead the battle on this critical national security issue.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, Chinese firms possess slightly under 1% of foreign-held acres in the U.S. Canadians possess around 32% of agricultural as well as non-agricultural land, whereas citizens of other allied countries such as the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Germany own 31% of foreign land holdings.
South Dakota lawmakers are particularly concerned about the acquisition of farmland close to military bases such as Ellsworth Air Force Base. The purchasing of 300 acres around Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where part of the nation’s secret military drone technology is situated, earlier this year by Chinese food production company Fufeng Group aroused concerns of espionage among certain officials.
“Those of us that have worked and lived on the land know that it is not just our past, but also our future,” concluded State Sen. Erin Tobin (R-SD). “We grow the world’s food, and we must ensure the safety of that food supply for our children.”
Previously, Hawaii, Minnesota, Iowa, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma prohibited foreign ownership of farms. Chinese investors, on the other hand, can get around such prohibitions by buying and operating via American corporations. The Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act was filed earlier this year by House Republican Conference Chairperson Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) in an effort to prohibit companies from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from purchasing American agricultural firms.
“China’s attempts to influence American agriculture pose a security risk to the United States,” Johnson stated in a statement. “We have seen a number of black swan incidents in recent years, and we cannot risk giving our adversaries more access to our food and supply systems.”