Future hearing: As we’ve reported, Thompson has already requested a review of the matter from the Comptroller General Gene Dodaro. Now, he tells MA he wants to hold a hearing on it in the coming months, possibly by April. (Though it’s likely the federal review he’s requested takes longer, which could push that hearing closer to the summer.)
As part of the speaker race battle, a group of far-right Republicans, included in their demands to Kevin McCarthy that “the farm bill must … block Chinese government land-buying. (That rhetoric is likely to only ratchet up after the GOP uproar over the recent Chinese balloon.)
But, according to Thompson, it won’t be part of the farm bill, but instead will be a separate process.
“I don’t believe that’s a farm bill issue,” Thompson said. “And the Ag Committee can walk and chew gum. We also have to do cryptocurrency — and thank god that’s not in the farm bill.”
Thompson and other farm-state lawmakers acknowledge there are serious national security concerns in specific states, including around one proposed Chinese-owned corn mill near an Air Force base in North Dakota. Land purchases by foreign entities with national security implications are supposed to be reviewed by a federal body, but some lawmakers recently have expressed concerns about that process, pushing for USDA to get more involved.
Still, Republicans are divided about the way forward.
“I’m always very sensitive to federalizing something,” said former House Ag Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). Senate Ag Republicans Mike Braun (Ind.) and Roger Marshall (Kan.) both said it was critical to carefully craft any plans so they protect personal property rights and avoid government overreach.
Now, a growing number of their Republican (and a few Democratic) colleagues are prepping a firehose of legislation on the topic. Thompson predicted “we’ll see thousands of bills” in the meantime.
One new bill, as we’ve reported, goes beyond China, and also targets Russia, Iran and North Korea. Last week, Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced their Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act — the Senate version of a bill from House Ag members Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Rick Crawford (R-Ark.) and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y).
2024 impact: It’s clear from the rhetoric on Capitol Hill that the issue will feature heavily in key 2024 races, including in Montana, a red state where Tester is up for reelection.