'Critical Part Of National Security': New Law Increases Scrutiny Of Foreign Farm Purchases In The U.S.

The next time a foreign entity attempts to buy farmland in Oklahoma, or anywhere in the country, the transaction should be more closely scrutinized, thanks to legislation sponsored by Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas and signed into law last week by President Biden.

Friday, March 15th 2024, 5:55 pm



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The next time a foreign entity attempts to buy farmland in Oklahoma, or anywhere in the country, the transaction should be more closely scrutinized, thanks to legislation sponsored by Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas and signed into law last week by President Biden.

The Agricultural Risk Review Act does one very simple thing: it makes the Secretary of Agriculture a permanent member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — CFIUS — which reviews real estate transactions involving foreign investors or buyers for national security risks.

"I’ve argued for a long time that food security was a critical part of national security," said Rep. Lucas (R-OK3) in an interview last week.

Lucas says he's been arguing that point for more than five years. He felt sure the food shortages and supply chain problems caused by the Covid pandemic would drive the point home, but says it actually took something more.

"It took the apparent purchase of farmland near a couple of military bases by the Chinese to get the attention of some of my colleagues here."

Lucas is referring to the proposed 2022 purchase of farmland by a Chinese entity for the development of a corn mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota, not far from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. The sale was struck down.

The purchase of U.S. farmland by foreign entities is on the rise, although much of it, including in Oklahoma, is for foreign-owned energy projects, like wind farms. Still, there is an overriding worry that Chinese-affiliated entities are taking advantage of the current patchwork of state laws and outdated enforcement methods.

"Foreign land ownership in Oklahoma has been against the law for a long, long time," Lucas said. "But my bill will make it easier for the state to figure out where these foreign properties are owned, and who owns them, and that information then will be used, I believe, by state authorities to enforce Oklahoma law."

Lucas says, not only will the Secretary of Agriculture now be empowered to flag potentially risky land sales, but additional money -- $2 million -- will go toward speeding up the transmission of filings to the states.

"I can’t speak for how fast the Biden administration would implement it, they haven’t been too concerned about this issue in the past," Lucas stated, "but this is an election year, and I’d hope that would help them move along in an expedited way."

Lucas’s bill was passed as part of the big appropriations package Congress approved just before last Friday’s first funding deadline. There’s still one more tranche of appropriations bills to pass, and the deadline for those is next Friday.

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