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By Troy Treasure
A state senator wants to stop foreign individuals from buying Missouri agricultural land.
Doug Beck (D-Affton) presented Senate Bill 243 to the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee on Monday, March 1.
In a press release, Beck indicated the proposed measure would not change current land ownership status. It would halt future foreign purchases or transfers of land from going forward.
Beck’s current target date for implementation is August 28 of this year.
“Our farmland is a finite and precious resource that should not be controlled by foreign interests, as this jeopardizes both our food security and our national security,” Beck said.
“My research indicates that foreign-owned farmland in America equals the size of Ohio,” he added.
Beck and District 18 Senator Cindy O’Laughlin (R-Shelbina) are both members of the Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee.
“It is hard enough for our young farmers and ranchers to start their own business raising row crops and livestock. I don’t want foreign entities coming here and making it more difficult by buying our land,” O’Laughlin said in an email. “I also believe we must protect our food sources.”
According to Beck, property owners currently self-report the sale of land to the Missouri Department of Agriculture and county commissioners do not track such transactions at the local level.
Beck believes his proposal will give the department a means of better tracking land purchases and determine whether or not the potential buyer is a qualified resident of the United States.
“I do have a concern with the legislation in that the Department of Agriculture doesn’t have the personnel or resources to do what the bill is suggesting,” O’Laughlin said. “So like most pieces of legislation, there’s more to be done.”
O’Laughlin was asked by a reporter if previous land sales might have sometimes been cloaked in secrecy.
“I’d have to see specifics of the transactions you reference,” she responded. “I think most transactions are incredibly complex, at times, but your point is well taken that this could occur without people understanding who all is involved in the transaction.”
District 5 State Representative Louis Riggs (R-Hannibal) and District 4 Representative Greg Sharpe (R-Ewing) are both former House colleagues of Beck.
“Doug Beck is a solid legislator. Senate Bill 243 would draw a line under foreign ownership of Missouri agricultural resources,” Riggs said. “Decoupling from Communist Chinese interests is a good policy goal.”
Sharpe stated as long as the legislation stays related to agricultural real estate, he will probably support it.
“However, if there’s a movement to limit Ag business, I would be way more skeptical on that,” Sharpe said.
Sharpe cited Anheuser-Busch InBev as an example of a company being in the agriculture business but based in Belgium.