In an unprecedented move that mirrors a broader national trend, Arkansas has ordered a Chinese-owned subsidiary to relinquish ownership of 160 acres of agricultural land, marking the first enforcement action under a flurry of new state laws designed to curb foreign control over domestic farmland.
The ruling in Arkansas underscores the ongoing debate surrounding foreign land ownership and its implications for national security and economic interests.
According to The Associated Press, Attorney General Tim Griffin declared that Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of China’s Syngenta Seeds, which is under the ownership umbrella of the state-owned China National Chemical Company (ChemChina), has been given a two-year window to divest its Craighead County property.
The legislation, championed by the Republican-majority Legislature and endorsed by GOP Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is a testament to Arkansas’s commitment to its local constituents.
“We will make sure that every company operating in Arkansas is a friend to Arkansas and good to hard-working Arkansans,” Sanders emphasized during a press briefing.
“Seeds are technology,” the Arkansas governor added. “Chinese state-owned corporations filter that technology back to their homeland, stealing American research and telling our enemies how to target American farms.”
Syngenta, however, expressed its discontent to The Associated Press regarding the state’s resolution, stressing that since acquiring the land in 1988, no directives to purchase, lease, or engage in land transactions had come from its Chinese parent company.
“Our people in Arkansas are Americans led by Americans who care deeply about serving Arkansas farmers,” the company stated. “This action hurts Arkansas farmers more than anyone else.”
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Before this year, only 14 states had imposed restrictions on foreign ownership of private farmland, a number that has now surged to 24 states, according to The National Agriculture Law Center at the University of Arkansas.
Micah Brown, a staff attorney at the center, noted many of the laws on investments from foreign nations are focused on countries such as China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.
“Historically, states that had a law before this year, there wasn’t much enforcement,” Brown said.
According to Brown, the recent uptick in legislative actions restricting foreign land ownership has been attributed, in part, to high-profile incidents involving Chinese-affiliated purchases near U.S. military bases, along with concerns arising from a suspected Chinese spy balloon traversing U.S. airspace earlier this year.
In addition to the divestiture order, Arkansas slapped Syngenta with a $280,000 fine for neglecting to report its foreign ownership, a mandate established by a state law passed in 2021.
Although Griffin displayed confidence in Syngenta’s compliance with both the divestiture and the fine, he refrained from detailing any direct interactions with the company, according to The Associated Press.
This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.