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Iowa Senate passes foreign ownership land bill

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate passed a bill that creates tighter restrictions on land owners by foreign entities during its first day of floor debate.

Senate File 2204 would give the attorney general subpoena powers to investigate land ownership. The bill also increases penalties for foreign entities that don’t file with the secretary of state or falsify a report.

The bill passed unanimously with little floor discussion.

Gov. Kim Reynolds requested the bill.

“Iowa plays a major role in feeding and fueling the world, and it is important we maintain our dominance as the leading agriculture powerhouse,” Reynolds said. “But as threats of foreign ownership of land adapt, so should our laws. American soil should remain in American hands. I am pleased that the Senate has passed my bill providing greater protections for Iowa farmland and increased penalties for foreign owners that don’t comply with our laws.”

A companion bill passed a House committee last week.

The latest Foreign Holdings of U.S. Agricultural Land report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that 1.6% of Iowa’s farmland is owned by a foreign entity.

Canada owns the most significant chunk of Iowa land with 198,667 acres, followed by “all others” with 181,258, according to the report that includes data through Dec. 31, 2022.

Iowa already has one of the strongest laws regulating the ownership of farmland by non-U.S. entities, said Micah Brown. He’s a staff attorney at the National Agriculture Law Center who spoke to The Center Square in a recent interview.

“Structurally, it is a good law because it provides enforcement mechanisms and penalty mechanisms that are necessary to enforce,” Brown said. “Some states are silent on enforcement and penalty.”

The Senate also passed a bill that would expand postpartum Medicaid care for mothers from two months to one year. Democrats criticized the bill for capping eligibility at 215% of the federal poverty level from 375%.

The change would save the state $1.7 million in fiscal year 2025 and $40,000 the next year, according to the bill’s fiscal note. It would cost the state $286,000 in fiscal year 2027.

Sen. Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, proposed an amendment to Senate File 2251 that would keep eligibility at 375%. The amendment failed.

“We should not be contracting care, we should be expanding it,” Peterson said.

The Senate passed the bill 34-13.

Reynolds proposed the change.

“Building a culture of life in Iowa means getting families off to the right start, but two months of postpartum care isn’t enough,” Reynolds said in response to the Senate’s action. “Extending postpartum care to 12 months for women with the greatest need helps them recover from childbirth, access family planning services, manage chronic health issues, and address mental health. For our state to be strong, our families must be strong.”

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