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Foreign farmland ownership updates

Foreign farmland ownership updates

Gov. Kristi Noem signed a bill into law in South Dakota

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

A newly signed bill in South Dakota restricts people with ties to governments or entities from six countries from owning any of the state’s 42.3 million acres of farmland.

On March 4, Gov. Kristi Noem signed HB 1231 into law.

This legislation blocks farmland ownership for the governments of China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela, or people associated with those governments.

“South Dakota respects the Freedom to farm and ranch. That Freedom should not extend to our enemies,” Governor Noem said in a statement. “Over the past year, we have had continuous discussions to create this legislation to protect South Dakota from foreign adversaries buying up our ag land.”

Legislators in other states are at various stages of working on similar or related laws.

In Oklahoma, for example, lawmakers introduced House Bill 3125 in February.

This bill sets out to eliminate foreign ownership of state farmland.

“We don’t want foreign ownership, especially in the areas of drugs like marijuana,” Rep. Danny Williams told KFOR. “We’re not targeting the agricultural world. We’re kind of targeting the marijuana world and the proliferation of illegal and not only ownership, but operation.”

In Iowa, the House of Representatives passed Senate File 2204 at the end of February.

This bill expands the current law to ensure more detailed reports of foreign farmland ownership in the state.

The law also increases penalties for foreign entities who don’t file necessary paperwork on time.

The new penalty is a fine of up to 25 percent of the value of the farmland.

A recent government report indicates the U.S. needs to improve its record keeping with respect to foreign ag land ownership.

Foreign investments in American farmland increased to about 40 million acres in 2021, and the USDA needs to record this information more thoroughly, the Government Accountability Office said.

“The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does not share timely data on foreign investments in agricultural land collected under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act of 1978, as amended,” the January report says. But without improving its internal processes, USDA cannot report reliable information to Congress or the public about where and how much U.S. agricultural land is held by foreign persons.”

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