States Accelerate Efforts to Block China’s Ag Land Purchases

A growing number of states are considering or have passed measures this legislative term to ban “foreign adversaries” and foreign entities – specifically China – from buying farmland.

Proponents of the laws, mostly Republicans but some Democrats as well, have frequently cited concerns about food security and the need to protect military bases and other sensitive installations. But the moves have stoked anxieties among some experts on US-Chinese relations, including those who see echoes of past discriminatory laws in the United States like the Chinese Exclusion Act.

Florida last month joined a list of at least seven other states – including Virginia, North Dakota, Montana and Arkansas – to pass variations of such bills this session, according to the National Agricultural Law Center (NALC), which is tracking the issue and conducts research on agricultural and food law. Similar measures are percolating in more than two dozen states and there’s a bill in Congress that seeks to federalize the issue, the NALC said.

States have previously sought to limit foreign investment, said Micah Brown, a staff attorney at the NALC. What’s new, Brown says, is that some lawmakers are taking aim at specific countries and their governments.