Restrictions on foreign ownership of farm land advances

Four bills that would limit foreign ownership of agricultural land have passed from one Missouri House committee and will be heard in another.

The bills have been referred to the House Rules Regulatory Oversight Committee for further discussion.

The House Committee Substitute for House Bills 903, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill; 465, sponsored by Rep. Kurtis Gregory, R-Marshall; 430, sponsored by Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green; and 499, sponsored by Rep. Boyd, R-Hamilton, was approved by the House Agriculture Policy Committee at a hearing Thursday morning. The committee unanimously approved a combination of the bills.

"This legislation puts Missouri and Missourians first by balancing the concept of protecting important investments in our state and protecting our national security interests from our enemies," Haffner said in a news release.

The substitute bill would increase restrictions on foreign-owned agriculture land. Instead of the current 1 percent of Missouri farmland that can be owned by foreign entities, the bill would lower the cap to a half of a percent.

If passed, all foreign entities would be required to report sales, acquisitions or transfers to the Missouri attorney general and secretary of state. If land is purchased by a foreign entity, it must notify the same entities before they've made the purchase.

The substitute bill names five "restrictive countries" that are wholly barred from owning any land in Missouri. The countries are: China, Russia, Iran, North Korea and Venezuela. The Missouri Homeland Security Council for the Missouri General Assembly will submit a recommendation to the governor's office every two years, detailing any changes that may be needed to the restrictive countries list.

Similar bills have also been proposed in the Missouri Senate.

Sen. Jason Bean, a Republican from Peach Orchard, had Senate Bill 55 read before the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee last week. The bill also seeks to limit foreign ownership of farmland to one half of a percent.

"Senate Bill 55 aims to set the record straight by making food security and national security a priority interest," Bean said.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft testified in favor of Bean's bill during the hearing.

Data from the Missouri Department of Agriculture indicated only 0.16 percent of land sold in 2021 was sold to a foreign entity. The data showed that the state total of foreign-owned agriculture land is 0.36 percent.

The two largest foreign owners of land in Missouri are China, with 42,596 acres, and New Zealand, with 16,271 acres, according to MDA data.

The data showed that no land in Missouri was owned by Iran, Russia, Venezuela or North Korea.