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Josh Hawley Unveils Bill To Stop China From Buying U.S. Farmland

Warns of national security threat posed by Chinese interests having influence over U.S. food supply

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has unveiled legislation aimed at preventing Chinese companies and entities from purchasing U.S. farmland.

Hawley’s proposed legislation would require China-connected businesses to give up their share of U.S. farmland. It would also prevent them from buying additional acreage, according to a report from Fox News Digital.

“No Chinese corporation or individual associated with the CCP should be permitted to own American farmland. It undermines the integrity of our nation’s food supply chain, it presents national security threats when the land is in proximity to military installations, and it hurts American farmers,” Hawley told Fox.

As of the December 2021, China owned about 0.9 percent (383,935 acres) of foreign-owned U.S. agricultural land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

But, the USDA says that China’s need for agricultural resources are driving rapid growth in foreign agriculture investments. Chinese investment in overseas agriculture, forestry, and fisheries rose from $300 million in 2009 to $3.3 billion in 2016.

Alarms were also sounded after Chinese firms sought to purchase land near U.S. military bases, which a U.S. government review board says in a report could lead to “economic espionage,” as “agricultural technologies present unique dual-use potential.” The report also warns that China could use farmland in the U.S. to deploy fugal spores that could be used as biological warfare agents to target and destroy stable crops, damaging the U.S. food supply.

If Hawley’s bill passes, Chinese entities with existing leases or interests in farmland would be required to sign a letter of intent to divest from those assets, Fox reported.

The new bill comes a week after a new House panel on U.S.-China relations held its first hearing on threats posed by China and how U.S. policymakers could respond. Rep. Dusty Johnson, a Republican, said that “food security is national security” in remarks over China’s increasing purchases of U.S. farmland.

“One thing we heard from our witnesses last night is that we cannot give the Chinese Communist Party coercive power over our economy,” Johnson said. “Food is one area where we continue to maintain a competitive advantage; we certainly should not let that slip away.”

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