The Florida Senate has unanimously passed a bill that bans seven countries, including China, from purchasing farmland in the state.
The bill, SB 246, also specifically prohibited the Chinese government, entities, companies and citizens domiciled in China from buying any real property in the state.
It requires buyers to provide an affidavit that they are not agent of a China entity or a citizen domiciled in China at the time of purchase.
Violators, including sellers, agents and buyers will be subject to felony charges and punishment. Property bought under violation will be forfeited by the state.
“If this bill becomes law, the reality is that when a seller sees a Chinese face or Chinese surname, they will ask for ID documentation. The seller, in order to avoid risk of possible punishment from mistake or the extra step, may choose to refuse to deal with a Chinese-looking buyer entirely,” said a Chinese American of the surname Liao.
According to media outlet FiveThirtyEight, 14 states have enacted similar restrictions, and a dozen more states are considering similar bans.
While most bills are being considered in “red” states, “blue” state New York also joined the ranks recently.
New York Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Democrat, proposed a bill to ban China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela, and any other country or individual deemed by the secretary of commerce to have engaged in conduct adverse to US national security, from purchasing agricultural land in New York state.
Similar bills are also being proposed in the US Congress. In the Senate, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, and South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds, a Republican, aims to prevent China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from investing in, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring US farmland.
Called the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act, it would add the secretary of agriculture as a standing member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to consider national security concerns when a foreign company takes over US agricultural businesses.
A group of senators led by Senator Mike Braun from Indiana introduced legislation to prevent people associated with the governments of America’s foreign “adversaries” — referring to China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — from buying agricultural land in the United States. The bill is called the Protecting America’s Agricultural Land from Foreign Harm Act.
Another US Senate bill proposed by Tom Cotton from Arkansas went one step further with the Not One More Inch or Acre Act. The bill would prohibit citizens, companies, and other entities of China — or any foreign person or entity acting on behalf of them — from buying any public or private real estate located the US.
In the House, Representative Dan Newhouse of Washington state introduced a bill called the Prohibition of Agricultural Land for the PRC Act to prohibit Chinese citizens from buying any agricultural land in the US.
Data from the Farm Service Agency of the US Department of Agriculture, however, showed that China owned less than 1 percent of the approximately 40 million acres of US agricultural land owned by foreign countries through the end of 2021.
China held 383,935 acres in the US, and about half of that was acquired in 2013, when China bought pork producer Smithfield Foods.
In total, foreign countries owned 3.1 percent of all privately held agricultural land and 1.8 percent of all land in the United States.
The bills singling out China and a few other countries have caused great concern about civil rights in the Chinese American community.
“The evil land laws that exclude Chinese people have appeared one after another in various places, and we are now at a critical historical moment for Chinese Americans to defend their rights,” said Xue Haipei, president of United Chinese Americans (UCA), in the group’s latest newsletter.
“The reason why the United States is the United States is its founding spirit of equality, freedom and openness that it advocates. This spirit is not only reflected in the treatment of its own nationals, but also applies to any member of human society in spirit and practice. Let me ask, why does the US government have to single out the people of any country to discriminate (against)?” Xue asked.
In Texas, where such bills were first proposed at the state level, none has been put to a vote yet. The bills have drawn many Chinese Americans to the state chamber for the first time to voice their concerns at various hearings.
Statewide civil rights protests are being planned for Saturday, April 22, across Texas — in Austin, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Plano and Fort Worth.
“Our communities have fought, bled and sometimes died fighting for our civil rights over the past century. It has only been recently that our communities have had a seat at the table. Now, there are dozens of pieces of legislation to roll back the rights that we have earned,” said Texas state Representative Gene Wu, who has been at the forefront of the fight against those bills.
Calling for the community to join the weekend rallies, Wu said: “They are telling us we are no longer welcome at the table and we should go back to begging for scraps. We refuse.”