Arkansas ordered a Chinese state-owned company to divest itself from U.S. agricultural land.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Attorney General Tim Griffin held a press conference Tuesday ordering Northrup King Seed Co. to divest itself of 160 acres of Arkansas farmland.
“Northrup is a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds, which is owned by China National Chemical Company, or ChemChina, a Chinese state-owned company,” the Associated Press reports.
After the state legislature passed a bill banning prohibited foreign parties from owning agricultural land in Arkansas, state officials said the company violated the state law.
“The company that owns Syngenta, ChemChina, is also on the Department of Defense’s list of Chinese military companies posing a clear threat to our state,” Sanders said.
“We will make sure that every company operating in Arkansas is a friend to Arkansas and good to hard-working Arkansans,” she added.
BREAKING: Arkansas becomes the first state in the nation to force a Chinese state-owned company to give up its American land. pic.twitter.com/tsBV2dwP6N
— Leading Report (@LeadingReport) October 17, 2023
Griffin also said he is imposing the maximum $280,000 fine under Arkansas law, after the company also failed to meet its deadline to disclose ownership of the land.
Sanders and Department of Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward spoke on the importance of agricultural land in Arkansas, given it is the state’s top industry.
The governor said foreign enemy countries, specifically China, are targeting the industry and putting farmers at risk, including those here in Arkansas.
Syngenta Seeds is an agriculture-chemical company that takes up 160 acres in northeast Arkansas, used mainly for seed research, according to Sanders.
Griffin said he is prepared to take legal action if the company does not pay the fine by the 30-day deadline.
Arkansas officials took steps Tuesday to force a Chinese government-owned agricultural company to divest itself of 160 acres of Craighead County farmland and pay a $280,000 fine for failing to file timely disclosures to the state.https://t.co/FDnq9S5klU
— AR Money & Politics (@amppob) October 18, 2023
KARK provided a statement from Syngenta Seeds in response to the order.
“The order for Syngenta to divest itself of 160 acres of agricultural land in Craighead County, which the company has owned since 1988, is a shortsighted action that fails to account for the effects of such an action, intended or not, on the U.S. agricultural market,” the statement read.
“Our people in Arkansas are Americans led by Americans who care deeply about serving Arkansas farmers. This action hurts Arkansas farmers more than anyone else,” it added.
“America’s enemies are on the march. They are smart, they are brutal, and they will stop at nothing to harm our country. Arkansas is the first state in the country to fight back and kick a Chinese-owned company off our farmland,” Sanders wrote.
America’s enemies are on the march. They are smart, they are brutal, and they will stop at nothing to harm our country.
Arkansas is the first state in the country to fight back and kick a Chinese-owned company off our farmland. pic.twitter.com/oNXZ3zIZm0
— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) October 17, 2023
Concern has been growing in many states about foreign ownership of farmland. Prior to this year, 14 states had laws prohibiting or restricting foreign ownership and investments in private farmland. But that ballooned to 24 states this year as lawmakers in nearly three-quarters of states considered legislation on the topic, according to The National Agriculture Law Center at the University of Arkansas.
The enforcement action by Arkansas’ attorney general is the first under the wave of new laws, many of which specifically targeted investments from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia, said Micah Brown, a staff attorney at the agricultural law center.
“Historically, states that had a law before this year, there wasn’t much enforcement,” said Micah Brown, a staff attorney at the agricultural law center.
Under the Arkansas law, if a company doesn’t divest of the land, the state can take action in court. Griffin did not say whether the state has identified other foreign-owned land that would prompt similar action under the new law.
The state also fined Syngenta $280,000 for not reporting its foreign ownership under a 2021 state law, which gives the company 30 days to pay the fine. Syngenta said Tuesday the company updated its filing with the U.S. Department of Agriculture after an internal review reflecting the change in ownership, and has also filed a copy with the state.