South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Tuesday announced new legislation to crack down on foreign purchases of agricultural land in her state. The bill comes as the governor has aggressively moved to counter China, which she has called, “the greatest threat to the U.S.”
Noem’s proposed legislation would create a new board, called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota (CFIUS-SD), which will review proposed purchases of farmland by foreign investors. After an investigation, the committee will make a recommendation to the governor on whether the purchase should be approved or denied.
“With this new process, we will be able to prevent nations who hate us – like Communist China – from buying up our state’s agriculture land,” Noem said in a statement. “We cannot allow the Chinese Communist Party to continue to buy up our nation’s food supply, so South Dakota will lead the charge on this vital national security issue.”
Noem and others have raised concerns over Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland, which they say could give the hostile foreign power greater control over the food supply. Fifty-one Republican lawmakers sent a letter to three of President Biden’s cabinet secretaries in September warning of the “alarming development” for U.S. National Security after a Chinese Communist Party-linked company bought land near North Dakota’s Grand Forks Air Force Base.
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Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that Chinese ownership of U.S. agriculture land has grown from $81 million in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2020, the Wall Street Journal reported in September.
The proposed South Dakota board would consist of the governor’s general counsel, who would serve as the chairman, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the director of the South Dakota Office of Homeland Security. The board would also have two appointed members, one who would be an agricultural industry expert and the other who would be a national security or foreign policy expert, according to the governor’s office.
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The committee would be empowered to review any transaction of any number of acres involving a “foreign entity,” – including agricultural land transfers, purchases, grants, devises, descents, or inheritances. Leases of farm land to a foreign entity and other transactions would also fall under the jurisdiction of the board, should the bill become law.
Current South Dakota law limits foreign ownership of farm land to 160 acres.
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Republican lawmakers sponsoring the legislation said it was necessary to secure U.S. national and food security.
“For those of us who have lived and worked on the land, we know that it’s our past, but also our future,” said state Sen. Erin Tobin. “We grow the world’s food, and we need to protect the security of that food supply for our kids.”
“With vital national security resources like Ellsworth Air Force Base, we cannot afford for our enemies to purchase land in South Dakota,” added state Rep.-elect Gary Cammack. “We want to keep this land in the hands of South Dakota agriculture producers. I look forward to working with Governor Noem and my colleagues to guarantee the continued security of our state and nation.”
The new bill is the third anti-China action taken by Noem in recent weeks as she has sought to draw a contrast the Biden adminstration’s approach to China and her own policies.
Two weeks ago, the governor issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies or those who contract with them from accessing the China-owned social media app TikTok, accusing the Chinese Communist Party of using the app to collect data from users.
Last week, Noem instructed state agencies to begin an immediate review of all state investments, looking for taxpayer dollars being sent to companies with ties to China.
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