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Cramer: Governors need to be in the loop about foreign land purchases

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(The Center Square) – Governors should know if foreign entities are purchasing land in their state, according to a bill proposed by U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.

Currently, governors do not have access to confidential information in a committee review, according to Cramer.

In January 2023, Grand Forks officials denied permits to a Chinese company for land 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. Fufeng Group announced the purchase of 370 acres of land for a wet corn milling plant in 2021.

“My bill gives governors some avenue to at least find out if something is going on, because you would rather be a partner than in the dark,” said Cramer. “If there is a silver lining to our experience in North Dakota, it is a heightened federal awareness of the need to safeguard our critical food supply chains.”

If the bill is enacted, state governors could ask the committee whether a land transaction would trigger a review. The committee would then have to respond to the governor’s request within 30 days.

A widespread uptick in states presenting proposals on foreign ownership laws occurred between 2021 and 2023, according to Micah Brown, a staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center in Arkansas.

Last year, twelve states enacted legislation regarding foreign entities acquiring U.S. land, including North Dakota, Indiana, Montana, Utah, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama, Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

Brown told legislators Tuesday there is no federal restriction on foreign investments in U.S. land.

“This has really been left up to the states,” Brown said.

North Dakota is one of 24 states that have laws restricting foreign ownership. Meanwhile, 21 states have laws that expressly allow foreign investment and five states are silent on the matter, according to Brown.

Cramer said if his proposed bill became law, it would make CFIUS more responsive to states before a purchase review begins.

“Federal legislation and leadership must not be the end-all-be-all. North Dakotans do not need the federal government or CFIUS to tell them not to touch a hot stove or not to sell land to our enemies.” Cramer said. “Land is in limited supply, food is essential, and if we do not want the enemy taking our harvests when we might need them most, we should discourage land being sold to bad people.”

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