(The Center Square) - Two members of Congress representing almost the entirety of Washington east of the Cascades want to stop a particular group of foreign nationals from owning, controlling, or profiting from American agricultural land.
U.S. Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, and Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, have introduced the "Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the People's Republic of China Act" in the House of Representatives aimed at keeping members of the Chinese Communist Party from owning American agricultural real estate.
"Agriculture is Eastern Washington's number one industry. We simply cannot allow companies from China to lock down our resources and undermine our farmers and ranchers' ability to feed the world," said Rep. McMorris Rogers in a statement. "Americans should not be forced to rely on China for the food they put on the table. Prohibiting the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing farmland in the United States is a no-brainer that will support domestic food production and decrease our dangerous dependence on foreign adversaries."
The text of the bill calls on the president to "take such actions as may be necessary to prohibit participation in programs administered by the Secretary of Agriculture by nonresident aliens, foreign businesses, or any agent, trustee, or fiduciary associated with the Government of the People's Republic of China."
The wording is broad and aimed at preventing not just CCP members, but all affiliated persons and entities from meddling in the free market of American agriculture.
It also bans the same entities and individuals from participating in any United States Department of Agriculture program, with the notable exception of food safety inspections.
If adopted into law, the bill could have significant repercussions.
A recent report, from the FDA entitled "Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land" notes that by the beginning of 2020, China already owns or indirectly controls nearly $2 billion in US agricultural land.
Another report from the USDA notes that in the previous decade Chinese investment in agriculture has risen by over 1000% outside its own borders.
Currently only six states - Hawaii, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Oklahoma - have some form of legislation on the books banning foreign nationals from owning agricultural land. The bill would extend those protections to the rest of the nation.
"The Chinese Communist Party is a threat to American democracy," co-sponsor Rep. Newhouse said. "The United States is engaged in a great power struggle with the CCP, and we must respond with tough policies that will protect our farmland and food supply chain."
The bill is worded to prevent future purchases. It is unclear how, if enacted, this legislation would affect current holdings by CCP-affiliated entities.