Progress! New Legislation To Prevent China From Procuring U.S. Farmland

A congresswoman from Texas has introduced a bill to restrict the purchase of farmland in the United States by hostile foreign powers, particularly China.

On June 9, House Committee on Ways and Means member Rep. Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas) introduced the bill. The Protecting American Farmland Act (H.R.3996) seeks to change the Internal Revenue Code to prevent ‘country of concern’ buyers from concealing their acquisitions of U.S. farmland to avoid paying the 60 percent exercise tax.

In a statement released alongside the bill’s introduction, Van Duyne claimed that China is actively working to undermine the United States by doing things like poisoning citizens with fentanyl smuggled in through the southern border, monitoring the country, and stepping into the emptiness left by the inactive Biden administration on the global stage.

Van Duyne also said farming in the United States, particularly Texas, has become the new battleground in the struggle against the Chinese Communist Party. Van Duyne noted that she is pleased to introduce this measure alongside Chairman Jason Smith to defend farmers, supply lines, and national security by keeping farmlands out of the hands of the country’s adversaries.

In the bill’s words, a ‘country of concern’ is any country with an ongoing pattern or serious activity that poses a significant threat to U.S. national security.

The communist dictatorship in Venezuela under socialist dictator Nicol├ís Maduro is highlighted in the bill as a country of concern along with China, Cuba, Iran, and North Korea.

As of 2021, the Chinese government held 383,935 acres of farmland in the United States, per data from the USDA. That’s only 0.9% of all land owned by foreigners, but it’s up over 50% from the end of 2018.

Jason Smith (R-Mo), Ways and Means Committee Chairman, said in a statement that the United States must take precautions to prevent its agricultural resources from falling into the hands of enterprises controlled by its adversaries.

According to Smith, Representative Van Duyne’s plan would increase an existing tax on foreign land sales by 400% to deter the Chinese Communist Party and other hostile foreign governments from asserting a claim to U.S. farmland. The food and economic security of the United States would improve if farmlands were better protected.

Other legislation to prevent Chinese acquisition of U.S. farmland has been presented in the House and Senate in recent months.

China’s Communist Party-affiliated agribusiness Fufeng Group bought 300 acres in North Dakota, about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, in 2022. The Grand Forks City Council decided unanimously to cancel the company’s building proposal in February due to national security concerns regarding the proposed wet corn milling and fermentation plant.

A former Chinese military official purchased about 140,000 acres of farmland near the U.S. Laughlin Air Force Base in Val Verde County, Texas. His firm has announced plans to construct wind turbines on the property.

Recent legislation addressing the issue expired in committee before reaching Governor Greg Abbott’s desk in Texas. In April, the state Senate approved SB 147, authored by Republican Sen. Lois Kolkhorst. However, it did not leave the House Committee on State Affairs by the end of the regular legislative session in late May.

Several groups have favored SB 147, including the Christian human rights organization China Aid, the Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, the Oil and Gas Workers Association, and Texans for Strong Borders.