The North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill on Wednesday prohibiting state-owned companies and hostile foreign nations like China from purchasing farms or any other land near a military installation.
The 114-0 vote came amid mounting concern over national security after the Chinese spy balloon recently flew over the state’s military bases before being taken down off the South Carolina coast.
The measure, which will be headed to the state Senate, stipulates that an “adversarial foreign government,” as defined by the U.S. Secretary of State, would be prohibited, starting in 2024, from purchasing, leasing, or holding an interest in land used for agricultural production purposes or land located within a 25-mile radius of an installation. Such a transfer of land would be void.
The legislation targets any nation labeled as having “engaged in a long-term pattern or serious instances of conduct significantly adverse to the national security of the United States or security and safety of United States persons.”
Nations currently meeting that criteria include China, Russia, Iran, and Cuba.
With the move, North Carolina has joined at least four other states that have enacted restrictions to ban Chinese investments in U.S. farmland, including Arkansas, Idaho, Utah, and Virginia. Montana and North Dakota have passed restrictions in the legislature, but the proposals have yet to be enacted, according to the National Agricultural Law Center.
Mitigate Threats to National and Food Security
“This legislation will mitigate an unnecessary threat to our national and food security,” House Majority Leader John Bell, a Wayne County Republican, said in a news release after the vote.
Meanwhile, co-sponsor of the bill, Republican state Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, called the measure “a tool in the toolbox” for North Carolina to protect farmland.
These concerns are shared by Gatestone Institute senior fellow and China expert Gordon Chang, who said that “we definitely need to be worried about Chinese investment into our agricultural sector.”
He singled out the report on China’s shipping invasive, mysterious, unsolicited packages of seeds to Americans in 2020.
“Now, if the Chinese were to own more and more agriculture, they could very well plant those seeds and actually blight America’s food production,” Chang said in an April 19 interview on FOX Business’ “Mornings With Maria.”
“We have seen some very disturbing actions by Chinese parties, especially in states like Oklahoma, where there are allegations that the Chinese are using their land for the base of human trafficking operations, illegal drug cultivation,” he added.
Concern About Smithfield Foods
The recent legislative move targeting Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland renews concerns about China-owned Smithfield Foods, Inc., the largest pork producer in the United States.
The company was acquired 10 years ago by a Hong Kong-based company now known as WH Group. Miles Yu, a former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, raised concern that this ownership means Smithfield is subject to the Chinese Communist Party’s demands, Fox News reported.
“It’s a law. So by law, every company that is within the Chinese sovereign domain must comply with the Chinese Communist Party’s demand,” Yu, also the director of the China Center at Hudson Institute, said.
Yu also sounded an alarm about the fact that the 10-year-old acquisition deal was financed by the nation’s government-backed bank, the Bank of China.
“That means Bank of China owns you,” said Yu. “If you have that your financial backer is a Chinese official government institution, and then Chinese government exerts essential control.”
However, the group’s executives dismissed Yu’s remarks, saying that the Chinese regime exerts no influence or control over its American pork production.
Headquartered in Smithfield, Virginia, with branches in 29 states, including North Carolina, the 87-year-old company offers jobs to 40,000 workers in the United States, owns 500 farms, and works with more than 2,100 local hog farmers.
Smithfield Foods Vice President of Corporate Affairs Jim Monroe said that the exports contribute significantly to farmer prosperity, accounting for 30 percent of its pork production globally.
Smithfield claims that because it is controlled by the China-based WH Group and not the Chinese regime, the company will not be subjected to North Carolina’s proposed ban on foreign investment in agricultural land.
Balkcom echoed WH Group’s statement: “I think they’ve been a good group for us. So that’s why this legislation isn’t going to hurt them, and we didn’t want to do that when we were looking at it.” » …