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Indiana farmland off limits to 'foreign adversaries'

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Joe Ulery

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(Indiana News Service) A bipartisan law set to take effect this summer prohibits foreign adversaries from buying Hoosier farmland. The signature of Governor Eric Holcomb was the final step for House Bill 1183

The landmark legislation bans China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela from owning or leasing farmland within the state. It also imposes restrictions on real estate transactions within a 10-mile radius of military installations.

Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Goshen, is a staunch supporter of the bill and echoed the concerns of many lawmakers about potential vulnerabilities posed by extensive foreign ownership of farmland.

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"Forty million acres, is twice the size of the state of Indiana, is in foreign ownership. So, maybe we need to be looking a little more before we sell the whole country," Doriot said. 

Opponents argue the bill goes too far and punishes people who fled the targeted countries. Canada owns about a third of America's 1.3 billion acres of farmland. China owns 400,000 acres in the U.S., and 2.2 percent of Indiana's farmland has foreign owners

The new law goes into effect July 1. The law won't apply to people who have dual citizenship in the U.S. and one of the restricted countries, or who are lawful permanent residents. 

Sen. James Tomes, R- Wadesville, stressed the importance of asserting local control over Indiana farmland.

"I think we need to stand up for what goes on in our country. We talk about local control - the local control I think we're under right now is the federal government. Because what's happening right now, the feds are really making it difficult. I'm glad the states are stepping up to do it on their own," Tomes said. 

Some 24 states have passed legislation restricting property sales to foreign entities. Proponents say the law is a proactive measure to safeguard Indiana's agriculture industry from undue foreign influence, and to bolster the state's national security posture.