By now, you’ve likely heard of the Chinese balloons that made their way across the U.S. in late January and early February and were eventually shot down. The spy balloons, coupled with a Chinese-owned company purchasing land 12 miles from a U.S. Air Force base in North Dakota, have sounded alarms on both state and federal levels.
To limit further foreign activity on U.S. lands, particularly the sale of land, the Treasury Department’s Office of Investment Security proposed a rule on Friday that would require foreign entities to garner U.S. government approval before they are able to purchase land within 100 miles of eight military bases.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) welcomed news of the proposed rule, which could have blocked the North Dakota land sale to the Fufeng Group.
“This is a good first step to bolster reviews and mitigate threats similar to what we saw with Fufeng,” Cramer said in a statement on Thursday.
The Office of Investment Security is responsible for screening foreign business dealings in the U.S. and has the authority to block or force term changes in sales in order to protect national security.
Backstory on Fufeng Group’s North Dakota Purchase
Fufeng Group says it plans to use the land to build a $700 million corn milling plant, which would create at least 200 jobs, as well as residual opportunities for logistics, trucking and other services.
Many North Dakotans made their sentiments on the sale known, which led to a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. However, the committee’s review found no issue with the sale.
“More needs to be done to ensure the U.S. food supply chain is secure and independent,” says Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.). “If we do not prevent these land grabs, we are failing to protect our farmers, our families and our country.”
In September, Newhouse, along with 50 other members of Congress, asked USDA and other agencies to take effective action in addressing the potential national security risks that appear to arise from this transaction.
Instead of waiting on the government, some states are taking legislative action on their own.
Missouri Puts Up a Foreign Land Ownership Wall
The Missouri Senate made moves on the issue in April when it backed a plan to amend the state’s foreign land ownership threshold from 1% to 0.5%. The bill also includes a provision that would limit foreign countries — including China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — from acquiring farmland in Missouri by Sept. 1.
“We’re not going to allow for foreign ownership in the state of Missouri,” said Sen. Rick Brattin (R-31). “We have to draw a line in the sand today. It protects our sovereignty as a nation.”
According to the Missouri Department of Agriculture, foreign land ownership in Missouri accounts for 0.36%, just shy of the 0.5% proposed limit. In total, the department says China owns roughly 42,596 acres in Missouri.