Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on March. 7 unveiled a bill to block Chinese Communist Party affiliates from owning U.S. farmland, joining a chorus of lawmakers who are sounding the alarm on the issue.
“This Land is Our Land Act” will bar corporations and individuals linked to the Chinese regime from buying or leasing U.S. agricultural land while existing owners must divest their interests under the bill or face fines and criminal consequences.
“No Chinese corporation or individual associated with the CCP should be permitted to own American farmland,” Hawley said in a statement on Tuesday. “It undermines the integrity of our nation’s food supply chain, it presents national security threats when the land is in close proximity to military installations, and it hurts American farmers.”
The bill is the latest effort from Congress and states to spotlight threats from China in recent weeks and months, particularly since the exposure of a Chinese surveillance balloon program that violated the airspace of dozens of countries.
As part of that program, a Chinese spy balloon made a week-long journey across the country under the watch of Americans and passed over sensitive military assets, drawing condemnation from both chambers of Congress.
Hawley’s bill will force Chinese state-backed entities and companies incorporated in China’s mainland, Hong Kong, or Macau to divest interests in U.S. farmland within two years. Within a year after the bill comes into force, they will need to sign a letter declaring their intent to take action.
Violators could face a fine of $100 a day on each acre they own and up to five years of prison life. They also risk forfeiting the land, which will then be sold through a public auction.
A growing number of lawmakers and state officials have moved to restrict land ownership from Chinese entities.
In Hawley’s home state, Chinese entities owned 42,596 acres of agricultural land as of 2021, comprising a little under half of the 100,000 agricultural acres under foreign control, according to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Most of that land has been used for hog farming by the Chinese buyer WH Group, which took over the largest U.S. pork producer Smithfield Foods in 2013.
On March 2, the Missouri House backed legislation targeting land purchases from China and four other perceived foreign adversaries.
“We have to protect Missouri sovereignty, and we have to protect Missouri farmers, and I think we need to protect our food supply,” said Missouri House Speaker Dean Plocher.
Virginia’s legislators in the House and Senate have recently approved versions of a proposal to prohibit Chinese farmland buying, sending it to the desk of Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who is expected to sign it.
In North Dakota’s Grand Forks, Mayor Brandon Bochenski announced plans to scrap a Chinese corn mill project in the vicinity of the Grand Forks Air Force Base, following U.S. Air Force warning that the proposed plant poses a “significant threat to national security” and could significantly impact their operations in the area in near- and long- term.