Assembly eyes limiting foreign ownership of agricultural land

January 27, 2023


missouri news network

Jan. 24, 2023

Both the Missouri House and Senate are considering bills that aim at the same objective: restricting the ability of foreign entities to acquire real estate in Missouri.

There are important differences between different versions but sponsors of the concept and their supporters cite concerns over food production, physical and technological infrastructure, and military security as rationale for such measures.

Current law restricts foreign ownership of agricultural land to 1% of the state total. Foreign entities can acquire and transfer agricultural land in Missouri as long as foreign ownership does not exceed 1% in total.

But Sen. Doug Beck, D-St. Louis, who supports further restrictions, said adequate records are not being kept, and what percentage of agricultural land is owned by foreign entities is not known.

Whether or not current law is being enforced has seemingly little bearing on bills being heard currently, since each goes beyond demanding enforcement of current statutes.

Beck, as are most proponents, is concerned that the problem of foreign ownership of land will persist and pose a threat to what he calls “our most finite, precious resources, which is our farmland.”

Beck is joined in concern for state security by supporters of foreign land ownership restrictions such as Rep. Chad Perkins, R-Bowling Green, and Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, who describe vulnerability in critical infrastructure, such as food production and food supply, as being caused by an undesirable volume of foreign enterprise that runs counter to U.S. interests.

Haffner has introduced his own version of the bill in the House, where it will get a hearing on Thursday. He said that he hopes to eliminate access of foreigners from adversarial nations — such Iran, Iraq, Russia, China and North Korea — to real estate in Missouri, while strengthening partnerships with foreigners from allied nations.

“When you look at it from the national security standpoint, it doesn’t matter if you’re talking the water supply or the food supply, those actors could have a negative influence and really disrupt the food supply,” Haffner said. “We don’t want that.”

Beck is closer to agreement with Sen. Bill Eigel, R-St. Charles, whose Senate Bill 9 was heard by the Senate Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources committee Tuesday. Senate Bill 9 would enact a complete halt on sale of real estate to any alien or foreign business after Aug. 28, 2023, regardless of relations between the U.S. and other nations.

Senate Bill 9 does not require divestment of land currently owned by foreign individuals or businesses. Under that bill, foreign entities that currently possess real estate would be forbidden from selling to other foreign entities in the future.

However, questioning by fellow senators led Eigel to reconsider the language of the bill. His staff confirmed that the bill will be adjusted such that future purchase of residential property would not be restricted.

The hearing of Senate Bill 9 was attended by various interested parties who testified against the legislation, such as Sam Licklider, a lobbyist representing the interests of Missouri Realtors, and Philip Amzen, representing the interests of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce. .

Speaking in favor of restricting more foreign property ownership were Ben Travois of the Missouri Farm Bureau and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft.