Lawmakers in South Dakota announced a move to more heavily scrutinize foreign purchases of farmland from investors in adversarial nations such as China.
Foreigners in the Mount Rushmore State increased their land holdings from nearly 307,000 acres in 2019 to more than 356,000 acres in 2020, meaning that foreign nationals now control 0.9% of the state’s agricultural land, according to data from the Department of Agriculture. Governor Kristi Noem (R-SD) announced support for legislation that would establish the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States for South Dakota (CFIUS-SD) to examine possible acquisitions of agricultural land by foreign interests.
“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 said 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.”
Chinese entities own slightly less than 1% of foreign-held acres in the United States, according to the Department of Agriculture. Canadian investors own roughly 32% of agricultural and non-agricultural land, while citizens of other allied nations such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, and Germany constitute 31% of land holdings by foreigners.
Lawmakers in South Dakota are particularly worried about the acquisition of farmland near military facilities such as Ellsworth Air Force Base. The purchase of 300 acres near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where some of the nation’s secure military drone technology is located, earlier this year by Chinese food manufacturing company Fufeng Group raised concerns of espionage among 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,” State Senator Erin Tobin (R-SD) continued. “We grow the world’s food, and we need to protect the security of that food supply for our kids.”
Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma have previously banned the foreign ownership of farmland. Chinese investors, however, can circumvent such restrictions by acquiring and operating through American corporations. House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD) introduced the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act earlier this year in an effort to bar entities from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from buying American agricultural firms.
“China’s efforts to influence American agriculture threatens U.S. security,” Johnson said in a statement. “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.”
The Biden administration likewise investigated Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei over concerns that cell towers using the company’s devices are transmitting data on military bases and missile silos to the communist nation. A final rule published last month by the Federal Communications Commission will block Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, and Dahua from importing and selling certain technology that the agency considers a potential threat to national security. The new rule, however, does not apply to technology already within the nation’s borders.