Arkansas AG Orders Chinese State-Owned Company to Divest Land

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National Trend Against Foreign Land Ownership

Arkansas made a significant announcement on Tuesday, ordering Northrup King Seed Co., a Chinese state-owned company, to divest 160 acres of land in the northeastern part of the state. This decision marks an unprecedented move in the realm of land ownership regulations.

Governor Sanders Reacts

Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders emphasized the importance of this decision, stating that it’s the first known instance of a U.S. state enforcing a law specifically targeting land ownership by foreign countries considered adversaries. This move comes as part of Arkansas’ new law, which prohibits a “prohibited foreign party-controlled” business from owning land within the state.

As per AG Griffin’s Office, this includes individuals or entities with “a connection to a country subject to the federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations,” which notably includes China. The state’s efforts align with a broader trend in the United States.

National Trend Against Foreign Land Ownership

State lawmakers across the U.S. have recently taken strong stances against foreign land ownership, with a primary focus on China. In Florida, a new law restricts most Chinese individuals who aren’t U.S. citizens or permanent residents from owning property.

States including Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama have also considered legislation this year to prevent “foreign adversaries” from purchasing farmland. Montana, in a similar vein, prohibits the sale or lease of agricultural land and homes near military assets to entities from six countries, including China.

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Key Details

During a press conference, Griffin revealed that Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Group, which is owned by the state-controlled China National Chemical Co., has been given two years to divest the land located in Craighead County. Griffin imposed a civil penalty of $280,000, amounting to 25% of the property’s fair market value, due to the company’s failure to report foreign ownership in a timely manner, as mandated by a 2021 law.

Syngenta, in response, expressed concerns about the decision, labeling it as “shortsighted” and pointing out its potential impact on the U.S. agricultural market. The company asserted that no one from China directed any Syngenta executive to engage in land acquisition in the United States.

The company has owned the land since 1988 and uses it for research and development purposes. They contend that they are obligated by law to develop and test products sold in the U.S. on U.S. soil while adhering to all relevant laws, regulations, and reviews.

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The Intrigue

Notably, Syngenta’s parent company finds itself “on the Department of Defense’s list of Chinese military companies posing a clear threat to our state,” as highlighted by Governor Sanders. The concern raised is that seeds represent technology, and Chinese state-owned corporations could potentially funnel this technology back to their homeland, posing a risk to American research and enabling enemies to target American farms.

By the Numbers

Foreign investors, not exclusively government-controlled, owned approximately 4 million acres of U.S. agricultural land in 2021, accounting for about 3.1% at that time, according to the USDA. Of this, China owned approximately 384,000 acres, slightly less than 1% of the foreign-held land. It’s worth noting that less than 5% of Arkansas farmland was owned by foreign investors.

This move by Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin reflects a growing trend in the United States to address concerns related to foreign land ownership, with China as a central focus, raising important questions about the impact on national security and agricultural interests.

Source: Axios

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