Bill would bar purchase of NC farmland, land near military bases by certain foreign governments 

RALEIGH — N.C. House Majority Leader Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) announced the filing of a bill to protect North Carolina farmland and land near military installations from being purchased by “adversarial” foreign entities. 

“Allowing foreign adversaries to purchase farmland is a legitimate concern in rural North Carolina and poses a serious risk to our national and food security,” Bell said in a press release. “By putting a halt to these land grabs, this bill will protect our state’s most precious natural resources while further safeguarding our military installations. It is critical that we act now to mitigate this unnecessary threat to our state and nation.” 

House Bill 463, the N.C. Farmland and Military Protection Act, would prohibit China, Russia, Iran and other foreign adversaries and state-controlled entities from purchasing agricultural land in North Carolina. The bill also includes property surrounding military installations. 

Primary sponsors of the bill include Bell, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Kings Mountain), and Reps. Jeff Zenger (R-Forsyth) and Jennifer Balkcom (R-Henderson). 

According to the bill, “no adversarial foreign government shall purchase, acquire, lease, or hold any interest in the following: (1) Agricultural land. (2) Land situated within a 25-mile radius of a military base, military installation, or military airport.” 

An adversarial foreign government is defined in the bill as a “state-controlled enterprise or the government of a foreign nation that has received a designation under 15 C.F.R § 7.4 from a determination by the United States Secretary of Commerce that the entity has 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.” 

According to Bell’s release, the bill has the support of the North Carolina Farm Bureau. The measure also has the support of N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. 

“We are losing farmland every day in North Carolina in a variety of ways — development, purchase by foreign entities, solar installations. North Carolina stands to lose over 1 million acres of farm and forestland to development by 2040 based on a recent report by the American Farmland Trust,” Troxler said in an email response to North State Journal. “We need focused efforts to slow the loss of farm and forestland as this loss takes valuable land out of food production forever.” 

 “I support this measure along with increased recurring funding for farmland preservation that I have asked for from the legislature,” Troxler added. “Ensuring we have the natural resources necessary to feed ourselves and our country is a matter of national security and I strongly believe we need to invest now in securing farm and forestlands in North Carolina for the future. I thank Representative Bell for introducing this bill.”  

House Bill 462 follows the filing of national-level bipartisan legislation to block adversaries of the U.S. from buying or leasing farmland by Sens. Mike Braun (R-IN), John Tester (D-MT), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).  

According to background in Braun’s press release, “U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland increased from $81 million in 2010 to $1.8 billion in 2020.” Entities that would be blocked include “those associated with the governments of Iran, North Korea, China and Russia.” 

Last October, 128 House Republicans led by Reps. Glenn Thompson (R-PA) and James Comer (R-KY) sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking for an investigation into foreign investment in U.S. farmland, including land acquired by China. Most of North Carolina’s Republican representatives signed off on the letter. 

Foreign investors held 37.6 million acres of U.S. agricultural land at the end of 2020, per the USDA’s most recent data. The USDA data shows Canadian investors owned the largest portion — 12.4 million acres, or 32%, of all foreign investments in U.S. agricultural land. 

About A.P. Dillon 1292 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_