North Carolina House of Representatives lawmakers unanimously passed a bill on Wednesday to safeguard agricultural land and property near military bases from the control of state-owned enterprises from China and other adversarial nations.
Under the legislation, entities where more than half of the shares are controlled by China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela would be prohibited from purchasing or leasing land within 25 miles of a military installation or any agricultural land. North Carolina State Rep. Jennifer Balkcom, a Republican and the primary bill sponsor, highlighted the importance of protecting the state's agricultural land from foreign governments that do not have America's best interests in mind.
The bill emphasizes the importance of guarding farmland from adversarial foreign government control to ensure a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply for the state's residents and the nation, according to the press release put out by Balkcom.
Currently, over 518,000 acres of North Carolina's farmland are held by foreign entities, according to a report from the Department of Agriculture. This figure increased by almost 11,000 acres between 2019 and 2020. Chinese entities own just under 1% of the acres held by foreigners in the United States, while Canadian investors own about 32% of agricultural and non-agricultural land held by foreigners. Citizens of other allied countries, such as the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, account for 31% of land held by foreigners.
Officials have expressed national security concerns regarding recent Chinese purchases of agricultural land. South Dakota lawmakers, for example, have raised concerns about Chinese entities acquiring farmland near Ellsworth Air Force Base. Similarly, the purchase of land near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota by Chinese food company Fufeng Group raised potential espionage concerns.
The North Carolina Farmland and Military Protection Act identifies military facilities like Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, and Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as locations where property cannot be purchased by entities controlled by adversarial nations. Chinese entities accounted for 6% of foreign residential real estate purchases in the United States between April 2021 and March 2022, with 3% of residential properties acquired by Chinese buyers located in North Carolina.
This legislative move comes as tensions between the United States and China escalate due to recent espionage efforts by the communist nation, including a spy balloon traversing the continental United States and reports of TikTok collecting data on American citizens.