KRTV: Montana Ag Network: legislation to prevent foreign entities from buying vital farmland

by Ryan Gamboa

United States Senators Jon Tester (D – Montana) and Senator Mike Rounds (R – South Dakota) are teaming up to implement a bipartisan bill aimed at preventing China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from investing in, purchasing, leasing, or otherwise acquiring U.S. Farmland.

In addition to protecting American agricultural land from foreign entities, the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act would add the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of the Committee of Foreign Invest in the United States (CFIUS). The job would be to consider agriculture needs when making determinations affection national security and require a report to Congress from the USDA on the risks posed by foreign takeovers of U.S. businesses engaged in agriculture.

“As a third-generation Montana farmer, I’m not going to sit back and let our foreign adversaries weaken our national security by buying up American farmland,” said Tester in a press release. “That’s why I’m proud to be joining my friend Senator Rounds on this bipartisan effort to prevent foreign entities from acquiring U.S. farmland and ensure our farmers have a seat at the table when the government makes decisions impacting our national security.”

“Protecting American farmland is critical to maintaining our national security,” said Rounds. “In my travels around South Dakota, I have heard from many farmers and ranchers who are concerned about foreign adversaries owning American farmland. It is time to put a stop to this and take action. This legislation makes certain American interests are protected by blacklisting foreign adversaries from purchasing land or businesses involved in agriculture.”

During a Senate Banking Committee hearing this past year, Senator Tester pushed for answers about how the government tracks foreign business in U.S. Farmland and agribusiness.

Also, introduced the bipartisan Food Security is National Security Act with Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Debbi Stabenow (D-Michigan), and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Which would include the Secretary of Agriculture and Secretary of Health and Human Services as members of CFIUS and require the Committee to consider the security of the nation’s food and agriculture systems as a factor when determining to take action with respect to foreign investment.

All of which are steps that producers in North Central Montana feel are in the right direction.

Dupuyer cattle rancher, Mark Hitchcock has run a calf-cow operation for over 50 years. He is firmly against foreign country involvement in America’s food supply.

“Our forefathers fought for this country. We made this country. I don’t know if we’re going in the right direction to be able to continue to operate our country the way that we spend money. But this is America. If we lose control of our land and in the food, the food industry, we’re going to lose,” said Hitchcock. “…everybody has to eat and if we have somebody else supplying our food, supplying our oil and all that, I mean, America needs to take care of America and foreign involvement… I’m just not for it.”

Federal lawmakers hope to push this legislation to President Biden’s desk immediately. This legislation was released before China made its presence known in Montana when a spy balloon was spotted flying over Billings. It was eventually shot down off the Carolina coast. Legislators believe that now is the right time as tensions have risen with China.

Legislation aims to prevent foreign entities from buying vital farmland (