A new bill in the state would create a board to oversee potential purchases
By Diego Flammini
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is taking steps to ensure any purchases of South Dakota farmland by foreign entities won’t harm the state.
Gov. Noem, State Sen. Erin Tobin, and State Rep.-elect Gary Cammack are working to introduce legislation that will create a board to restrict such transactions.
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota, would be tasked with investigating potential farmland purchases led by foreign interests and recommending approval or denial to the governor.
The committee’s makeup would include the governor’s general counsel, the secretary of the agriculture department and director of the state’s office of homeland security. An industry expert and a foreign policy expert would also sit on the committee.
Protecting domestic agriculture from foreign interference is necessary to ensure food security, Noem said.
“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,” Gov. Noem said in a Dec. 13 statement.
Foreign interests owned about 37.6 million acres of U.S. farmland as of December 31, 2020. China’s total share is about 352,140 acres, USDA data says.
In South Dakota, about 356,579 acres of farmland is owned by foreign interests, the USDA says.
Law in the state currently caps foreign ownership of state farmland at 160 acres.
China is no stranger to buying farmland in other countries.
In 2013, for example, a Chinese company bought 9 percent of Ukraine’s farmland with a 50-year lease, a Wall Street Journal report says.
And in 2016 China purchased more than 5,000 acres of farmland in France.
South Dakota farmland deserves to be owned by South Dakota farmers, Cammack said.
“We want to keep this land in the hands of South Dakota agriculture producers,” he said in a statement.
Lawmakers have introduced multiple bills at the federal and state levels designed to reduce foreign ownership of U.S. farmland.
On Dec. 9, Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rick Crawford (R-AR) introduced the Agricultural Foreign Investment Transparency Act.
In October, Texas Reps. Ronny Jackson (R) and Filemon Vela (D) introduced the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act.
In August, Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) tabled the Securing America’s Land from Foreign Interference Act .
In May, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) introduced the Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People’s Republic of China Act.
And at least one state government passed legislation in 2022 limiting foreign farmland ownership.
In March, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed Senate Bill 388 into law.
Under this legislation, as of July 1, 2022, a foreign business entity may only own up to 320 acres of land in Indiana. Groups that have purchased land before the July 1 deadline will be able to keep their acres.