Lawmakers in the North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation on Wednesday to prevent state-controlled enterprises from China and other adversarial nations from owning land intended for agriculture or property near military bases.
The bill, entitled the North Carolina Farmland and Military Protection Act, asserts that state officials have an interest to guard farmland from “the potential of adversarial foreign government control” in order to ensure a “safe, abundant, and affordable supply of food” for residents of the state and the nation. Entities in which more than half of shares are controlled by China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela would also not be permitted to purchase or lease any land within 25 miles of a military installation or any agricultural land.
“As someone who grew up on a family farm, preserving North Carolina’s farmland is a top priority,” North Carolina State Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, a Republican and the primary bill sponsor for the North Carolina Farmland and Military Protection Act, said in a press release. “Our state’s agricultural land is one of our most important assets and it is common sense that we protect it from foreign governments that do not have America’s best interests in mind.”
North Carolina presently has more than 518,000 acres of farmland held by foreign entities, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture, an amount which increased by nearly 11,000 acres between 2019 and 2020. Chinese entities own slightly less than 1% of acres held by foreigners in the United States; investors from Canada meanwhile own roughly 32% of agricultural and non-agricultural land held by foreigners while citizens of other allies, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, represent 31% of land held by foreigners.
Officials have nevertheless cited national security risks from recent Chinese purchases of agricultural land. Lawmakers in South Dakota, who also moved last year to prevent Chinese entities from purchasing land in the state, are particularly concerned about the acquisition of farmland near Ellsworth Air Force Base. The purchase of land near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where some of the nation’s secure drone technology is located, last year by Chinese food company Fufeng Group likewise raised concerns of potential espionage.
The North Carolina Farmland and Military Protection Act mentioned military facilities such as Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as locations where entities controlled by adversarial nations cannot purchase property.
Chinese entities composed 6% of foreign residential real estate purchases in the United States between April 2021 and March 2022, according to an analysis from the National Association of Realtors. Some 3% of residential properties acquired by Chinese buyers were in North Carolina.
The move from North Carolina lawmakers comes as tensions between the United States and China worsen over several recent espionage efforts from the communist nation, including a spy balloon that traversed the continental United States and reports of social media platform TikTok collecting data on American citizens.
Members of Congress recently pressed senior Biden administration officials to sanction cloud services offered by Huawei and Alibaba, while some officials are concerned that sensors mounted on seaport cranes manufactured by ZPMC could grant Chinese authorities access to data regarding items shipped for military operations.