Legislators from South Dakota recently announced a shift to more intensely scrutinize foreign purchases of farmland from investors in nations standing against the U.S. such as China.
Foreigners in the state of South Dakota have increased their land holdings from roughly 307,000 acres in 2019 to well over 356,000 acres as of 2020, meaning that international entities now hold control over 0.9% of the agricultural land within the state, as expressed by data made public by the Department of Agriculture. A recent announcement from Governor Kristi Noem (R-SD) expressed support for the new piece of legislation that would create the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for South Dakota (CFIUS-SD) to oversee possible purchases from foreign parties of agricultural land.
“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,” she explained in a press release. “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.”
Currently, Chinese parties own just under 1% of the foreign-held acres within the United States, as explained by the Department of Agriculture. Canadian investors currently have ownership of over 32% of both non-agricultural and agricultural land, while citizens of other allied nations such as the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom make up another 31% of land holdings by foreign parties.
Legislators from the Mount Rushmore State are particularly worried about the purchase of farmland next to military facilities such as the Ellsworth Air Force base. The buying of over 300 acres next to North Dakota-based Grand Forks Air Force Base, where a piece of the United State’s secure military drone technology is situated, earlier this year by Fufeng Group, a Chinese food manufacturing company, highlighted extreme concerns of espionage throughout some officials.
“For those of us who have lived and worked on the land, we know that it’s our past, but also our future,” stated State Senator Erin Tobin (R-SD). “We grow the world’s food, and we need to protect the security of that food supply for our kids.”
Overall, Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have previously taken steps as well to try and ban all foreign ownership of farmland. Despite these rules, Chinese investors can circumvent these restrictions by making purchases through and operating through American corporations. Both House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) made public the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act this year in an effort to block entities from Russian, Iran, China, and North Korea from buying up American agricultural firms.
“China’s efforts to influence American agriculture threatens U.S. security,” Johnson expressed in a release. “We have experienced numerous black swan events in the past few years, and we can’t risk allowing our adversaries closer access to our food and supply chains.”