By Jean-Paul McDonald
Arkansas has made headlines by becoming the first state in the nation to take action on a law that prohibits certain foreign entities from owning agricultural land. Attorney General Tim Griffin recently ordered a Chinese-owned company, ChemChina, to divest itself of farmland located in Craighead County.
The groundbreaking move comes as Attorney General Griffin imposed a substantial $280,000 fine on ChemChina for failing to submit necessary paperwork on time to the state Secretary of Agriculture, Wes Ward.
This enforcement action is rooted in Act 636, which was passed earlier in the year by the state legislature. The law aims to prevent "prohibited foreign-party-controlled businesses" from acquiring or holding public or private land in Arkansas, either directly or through affiliated parties.
The definition of a "prohibited foreign party" in state law includes individuals or entities with connections to countries subject to the federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), with China being the focal point of the current enforcement action.
The issue of foreign ownership of agricultural land has gained significant attention in the United States over the past few years. Several states, including Alabama, Florida, Montana, and Ohio, among others, have enacted or amended laws restricting certain foreign investments in their land.
While the concept of limiting foreign ownership isn't new in the U.S., it has resurfaced during pivotal moments in history. These laws date back to the 1700s and have been revisited during times of political significance. In recent years, the focus has shifted toward countries like China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia, reflecting heightened tensions between the U.S. and these nations.
Arkansas's enforcement action marks a significant development in the ongoing debate over foreign land ownership in the United States. It sets a precedent for future enforcement actions and underscores the evolving landscape of land ownership laws in the country.
This historic move by Arkansas reflects the state's commitment to ensuring the integrity of its agricultural land and protecting its interests in a rapidly changing global landscape.