Georgia Governor Signs Bill Restricting Land Acquisition by ‘Foreign Adversaries’

The bill will ban ‘nonresident aliens’ acting as agents of China or other foreign adversaries from acquiring farmland in Georgia.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a set of bills into law on Tuesday aimed at supporting the state’s agricultural industry, including a bill prohibiting “foreign adversaries” from buying farmland near military installations.

The bill, dubbed SB420, will ban “nonresident aliens” acting as agents of China or other foreign adversaries from acquiring farmland or non-residential land within a 10-mile radius of a military base.

“We cannot allow foreign adversaries to control something as critical to our survival as our food supply,” Mr. Kemp said during a signing ceremony of the legislation.

“Rest assured, Georgia will do everything in our power to prevent bad actors from threatening our national security,” he added.

Under the bill, any such possessory interest in agricultural land acquired by “nonresident aliens” by devise or inheritance must be disposed of within a year of acquisition. However, they will have two years if the land is acquired through the collection of debt or lien enforcement.

Individuals who intentionally violate the legislation will be charged with a felony and subject to a fine of up to $15,000, as well as imprisonment ranging from one to two years, according to the bill.

Coalition ‘Outraged’

However, Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition aimed at ending discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said the measure could stoke xenophobia among Asian American communities in Georgia.

“We’re outraged by the passage of Georgia’s discriminatory land ban bill, which directly harms the many vibrant Asian American communities across the state,” Cynthia Choi, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, said in a statement.

“These land ban laws label our communities as untrustworthy, blame them for the actions of another country’s government, and stoke the flames of racism, xenophobia and hate,” she added.

Ms. Choi said the governor “is shirking his responsibility to protect the equality, civil rights and constitutional right to due process of all Georgians and is instead engaging in anti-Asian scapegoating and anti-immigrant fearmongering.”

Similar legislation has been introduced in several states, including Illinois, Iowa, Utah, and Oklahoma, among others. The South Carolina Senate passed a bill last month that will partly ban companies or citizens of foreign adversaries from acquiring real property in the state.

The bill would put a cap on the total amount of real property that can be acquired, reducing it from 500,000 acres to 1,000 acres.

The measure was introduced after a Chinese biomedical company, AnPac, announced its agreement to pay $28 million for 500 acres in McCormick County.

National Security Concerns

Security concerns have been heightened in the United States ever since a recent incident where a Chinese spy balloon flew over U.S. territory, including over sensitive military facilities, before being shot down near the coast of South Carolina.

That event has drawn attention to concerns about Chinese surveillance efforts in the United States through the acquisition of land.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem had expressed alarm over the growing ownership of U.S. agricultural land by Chinese entities, warning that China could be planning to “buy up our entire food supply chain.”

Ms. Noem said at a March 20 House hearing that she has witnessed China buying up U.S. fertilizer companies, food processing systems, and now U.S. farmland.

“China is buying up our entire food supply chain. When America can’t feed itself and relies on another country to feed us, it becomes a national security issue. The country that feeds us controls us,” she said.

As of Dec. 31, 2021, China owned 383,935 acres of U.S. agricultural land (out of 878 million acres), according to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). While the acreage under Chinese ownership is slightly less than 1 percent of all foreign-held agricultural land, it represents a nearly 30-fold leap from 13,720 acres in 2010.

Caden Pearson contributed to this report.


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