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Farmland in eastern Missouri. Public Domain.

Legislation blocks foreign ownership of Missouri farmland

Increasing ownership of U.S. farmland by the Chinese government has raised red flags in Missouri and other states.

State lawmakers in 2013 voted to allow up to 1 percent of farmland to be held by foreign ownership. Following that, a Chinese company purchased Smithfield Foods, considered the largest pig and pork producer in the world. Senator-elect Rusty Black of Chillicothe has pre-filed a bill that would eliminate that 1 percent.

“I think it’s important as people go through and have this discussion to make sure that they realize there’s a difference between whether it’s corporate ownership or some kind of personal ownership by people or individuals that may have green card status, may not be full U.S. citizens or what people consider U.S. citizens,” Black told Missourinet. “There’s a tremendous amount of land owned by individuals that are not necessarily what many people consider U.S. citizens in our state.”

READ: Pompeo says China buying land is the “greatest threat”

It is not just Republicans who are concerned. Democratic State Sen. Doug Beck of Affton last year stated countries like China and Brazil are gobbling up farmland across the U.S.

Beck says the amount of Missouri farmland owned by foreign interests like Communist China is unknown, because county assessors are not doing their due diligence and keeping records of it.

The amount of agricultural land across the U.S. that is owned by foreign interests is equal to the size of Ohio, he warns, adding that 49% of hog production in Missouri is currently under foreign control.

In both Missouri and Kansas, the amount of land that is foreign-owned has quadrupled between 2009 and 2019.

“It’s very frustrating for me that we’re selling off one of the most precious things we have, which is our agriculture land, to a foreign entity and I think that affects our food security and national security,” Beck says.

Black agrees and says allowing just 1% of ownership is too much.  His bill seeks to get rid of the 1 percent, adding that a foreign corporation should own no land used for production in Missouri. If the total ownership exceeds 1 percent, a sale or transfer will be submitted to the Department of Agriculture for review. Additionally, if the land was found to be used for non-agricultural purposes, the violation should be reported to the attorney general.

“Being the senator that represents that area of the state that does have it, I thought it was important for me to be part of that discussion, because Smithfield Foods supplies a lot of career opportunities, employment opportunities in our part of the state,” Black said. “If people get too excited and decide they’re just going to ban people and take land, take property away from them, I want to be at the table when that discussion’s going on.”

Black said that he filed the bill with the intent of passing, but this marks the third time he has pre-filed it. He hopes to gain support and pass this bill, explaining that he doesn’t want world agricultural firms being part of the Missouri environment.

State-owned Chinese companies, meaning they are owned by the Communist government of China, have come under increasing scrutiny across the nation after it was revealed they were purchasing land near U.S. military bases.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft is also working with legislators to reduce the threat.

“Regarding the thousands of military personnel and the many base facilities in Missouri, it is paramount to ensure they both are protected by our state and furthermore our country,” stated Ashcroft. “I wholeheartedly support Missouri farmers and agriculture; both, critical to our state. I applaud Senator Bean and Representative Gregory for their efforts to protect Missourians.”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice

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