At Banking Hearing, Tester Presses Officials on Enforcing His Proposed Ban on Foreign Adversaries Buying American Farmland

Senator: “This is a huge problem whether it’s for laundering money, or whether it’s for national security, or whether it’s food security”

As part of his continued push to protect America’s food security and national security, U.S. Senator Jon Tester pressed officials at a Senate Banking Committee hearing on their ability to enforce his bipartisan legislation that would ban China and other foreign adversaries from purchasing U.S. farmland. 

At the beginning of his remarks, Tester highlighted how feedback he’s heard directly from Montanans led to him introducing bipartisan legislation to address concerns around foreign adversaries acquiring American farmland.

“In my real life I’m a farmer. And interestingly enough, a couple of years ago I started getting phone calls from folks about folks who were buying up land in Northcentral Montana. And then I did some farm bill listening sessions earlier this year and it was an issue that came up in every one of the forums that I had. That resulted in myself teaming up with another member of this committee, Senator Rounds, to deal with American farmland — or should I say potential American farmland that would be bought up by China, Russia, Iran or North Korea.”

Tester then pressed officials on if they have the capacity to enforce his bipartisan legislation. 

“This bill doesn’t work unless [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S.] can do the enforcement – you have to have an enforcement tool. You can’t just say we’re not gonna do this, you’re the enforcement tool. So the real question I have is, I don’t want to write something that sounds good, you put good press releases out but it really doesn’t do anything because we don’t have the enforcement agency to do it. And since you’re the enforcement agency, do you have capacity to do it? And how much more capacity, what would you need to be able to have capacity to be able to enforce a bill that would stop China, or all four of the countries — China, Russia, North Korea, Iran — from buying farmland in this country?”

Tester concluded by stressing that he is deeply concerned about this issue and secured the commitment of officials to work with him to find an enforceable solution.

“We’ve got to figure this out before it gets to be a crisis. And I would hope that the Treasury, Mr. Rosenberg, Mr. Rosen, we can work with you, because I just think this is a huge problem whether it’s for laundering money, or whether it’s for national security or whether it’s food security, it’s all the same thing. And if we could get your help, we might be able to get a piece of legislation that actually functionally works.” In response, Paul Rosen, the Assistant Secretary for Investment Security at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, pledged his support to Tester, saying, “You have my commitment to work with you, Senator.”

As the only working dirt farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has led the charge to combat Chinese aggression and prevent foreign adversaries from purchasing American farmland.

Tester has introduced two bipartisan bills — the Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act and the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act — to prohibit America’s foreign adversaries including China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from purchasing or leasing U.S. farmland.