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Missouri senate limits foreign farmland purchases
Missouri Ag Connection - 03/28/2024

The Missouri Senate recently passed a bill restricting future foreign acquisitions of farmland within the state. The legislation, receiving overwhelming bipartisan support, now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

This bill prohibits "any foreign body" from purchasing Missouri farmland within 500 miles of a military facility. Senator Bill Eigel, the bill's sponsor, emphasized the practical effect of this legislation – a near-total ban on foreign entities buying agricultural land in Missouri.

Opposition to the bill came from Senator Sandy Crawford, who argued against limitations on what farmers can do with their land. She expressed concern that the legislation could unnecessarily slow down land sales.

While the bill doesn't apply retroactively to existing foreign-owned land, it prevents further acquisitions. Notably, some Missouri farmland is already owned by foreign entities, like Smithfield Foods, a company acquired by a Chinese firm.

Missouri law currently allows for up to 1% of its farmland to be foreign owned. This stemmed from a 2013 law that lifted a previous ban on foreign ownership. Despite an initial veto by then-Governor Jay Nixon, lawmakers ultimately overturned it.

In January, Governor Mike Parson issued an executive order barring individuals and companies from designated foreign adversaries from acquiring farmland within a 10-mile radius of military facilities. These adversaries include China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.

Governor Parson acknowledged this order as a temporary measure until the legislature addressed the issue. Unlike his order, the Senate bill takes a broader approach, encompassing all foreign entities, not just adversaries.

The governor previously expressed concerns that a broader ban could harm Missouri's economy, particularly with non-adversary nations.

With potential changes in the House, the bill could require further Senate approval before becoming law. This legislation signifies a growing national debate on foreign ownership of agricultural land, with Missouri taking a stricter stance on the issue.

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