Continuing the push against Chinese ownership of U.S. farm ground, Missouri's governor on Tuesday moved to ban people and companies from foreign adversaries from buying agricultural land within a ten-mile radius of military facilities in the state.
"With China and other adversarial nations on the move, concerns about the threat to our security interests have increased," said Gov. Mike Parson, a Republican.
Among states, Missouri has the third-largest holdings of land own Chinese companies at 43,071 acres, according to USDA's latest report on foreign land holdings. The executive order by Parson is not retroactive, meaning it does not affect those acres.
"While we have had no issues at this point, we want to be proactive against any potential threats," Parson said.
The ban officially targets countries listed as foreign adversaries -- China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela -- from buying agricultural land within ten miles of all staffed military facilities in the state.
Landowners around military bases that sell any agricultural land to foreign entities also will have to report that purchase to the state and it could be rejected. The executive order also requires the approval of the Missouri Department of Agriculture before any foreign purchases of agricultural land going forward. Certain information about the sale will be provided to the Missouri Department of Agriculture before the sale is closed.
In a press conference, Parson said legislation had not been enacted by the Missouri General Assembly in recent years, so he and other officials wanted some restrictions on the books with the governor's executive authority. If he had the authority, he would have broadened the ban to include urban real estate such as commercial property as well, Parson said. The governor also said he had talked with general counsel to ensure he had legal ground to stand on.
"Whatever we do we have to make sure it stands up in court," he said.
Parson indicated his executive order is a placeholder "to see what reaction we get from the Missouri Legislature this year."
Yet, Parson also cautioned state lawmakers against bills that would ban all foreign land sales. He cited $19 billion in investment from foreign countries such as Israel, Sweden, Germany the United Kingdom.
"These nations pose no threat. These nations are our allies. Common sense and a balanced approach must be taken into consideration," Parson said.
Reporters asked Parson if he was concerned that the executive order could restrict farmers from selling to the highest bidder, Parson said he did not think any farmer would want to sell land to an adversary of the U.S. "I can't imagine a farmer ever wanting to do that," he said.
Parson did not mention the 43,071 acres already owned by companies with ties to China. Without referencing the one large company that owns nearly all of those acres, P
Parson's executive order comes more than a decade after the Missouri Legislature passed a law in 2013 that opened the door for Murphy Brown LLC, a division of Smithfield Foods, to retain ownership of Missouri farm ground when Smithfield sold to Chinese-based WH Group that same year.
"Really, there was no reason to do this years ago. These threats are not the same as they were decades ago."
Murphy Brown of Missouri owns 42,176 acres across seven counties in Missouri, according to USDA's report on 2022 acres. Murphy Brown in October also closed 25 swine operations in Missouri and laid off 92 workers.
As DTN has reported, Chinese ownership of farmland has been a major focus as multiple states have passed legislation requiring the reporting and prevent the sale of land to Chinese entities. Arkansas, for instance, ordered Syngenta Seeds to pay a $280,000 fine and sell 160 acres for failing to file paperwork on a piece of farm ground.
Chinese ownership of U.S. agricultural land is 349,442 acres as of Dec. 31, 2022. USDA reports 85% of those acres are concentrated in Texas, North Carolina, Missouri, Utah and Virginia.
Also see, "Breaking Down the Latest Report on Foreign Ownership of US Farmland," https://www.dtnpf.com/…
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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