State Watch

Virginia poised to ban foreign adversaries from buying farmland

The Virginia State flag and the American flag fly near the Virginia State Capitol, February 9, 2019 in Richmond, Virginia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia could soon ban China, Iran and other foreign adversaries from buying farmland in the commonwealth.

In a 23-16 bipartisan vote Monday, the Democrat-led Virginia Senate passed a bill from Republican state Sen. Richard Stuart to prohibit foreign governments from making agricultural land purchases after 2023.

The legislation appears poised to be signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R), who during his State of the Commonwealth address called for Virginia to ban foreign entities with ties to the Chinese Community Party from buying farmland.

Under the legislation, the ban would apply to foreign governments or others the U.S. Secretary of Commerce has determined “to have engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons.” It would not void purchases made before 2023.

The bill would also require the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to provide a yearly report to the governor and General Assembly on the farmland owned by foreign governments.

The current list of “foreign adversaries” recognized by the U.S. includes The People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Cuba, the Islamic Republic of Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuelan politician Nicolás Maduro.

In 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture found foreign entities and persons held an interest in nearly 41 million acres of the country’s agricultural land — 3.1% of total privately owned land.

According to the department’s 2021 data, most of this land was owned by Canada, the Netherlands, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany. The department found that China held just under 1% of the foreign-owned U.S. farmland at the end of 2021.

A similar bill is moving through the House of Delegates and is expected to pass. The legislation has an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect once signed into law.

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