By State Representative Angie King
Prime farm and pasture land is a precious commodity in Ohio. With agriculture the state’s top driver of a $698 billion economy, I began to take notice when Chinese-controlled businesses and the Chinese Community Party increased their purchase of prime farmland in the Midwest.
But not only does the sale of good agricultural ground worry me, but it is also that some of these purchases and attempted purchases just happen to be right next to military bases. Only six months ago, the Chinese government flew a spy balloon across the United States, including the Midwest, before being shot down off South Carolina’s coast.
In North Dakota, Grand Forks City Council halted the progress of a corn mill after a Chinese-based food manufacturer purchased 300 acres of farmland just a handful of miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
A Chinese billionaire and former army officer has purchased 150,000 acres near Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas with the prospect of building a wind farm. In South Carolina, a Chinese biomedical company has a pending deal for 500 acres near the U.S. Army Cyber Command headquarters.
China’s holdings of American agricultural land have been climbing at an astonishing rate in the past decade. From 2010 to 2020, the Chinese Communists Party increased its holdings by 5,300%, reaching more than 384,000 acres across the United States, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.
In Ohio, more than half a million acres of farmland are owned by foreign investors, some of it in the hands of Chinese-based companies. Currently, no federal law prevents our nation’s adversaries from buying American soil. It is up to each state to establish its own laws regarding foreign land investments. Some states, like Oklahoma and Iowa, do not allow the ownership of land if you are not a U.S. citizen. Alabama prohibits foreign countries from purchasing land within 10 miles of military installations or critical infrastructure.
This uptick in land purchases by China has motivated me to protect Ohio’s agricultural land and military installations with legislation I introduced recently, the Ohio Property Protection Act. This legislation will prohibit the sale of real property to any individual or entity tied to a foreign adversary nation such as Iran, Cuba, North Korea, China, or Russia.
In western Ohio and the 82nd House District, agriculture is crucial to our livelihood and economic growth. Just south of the district is home to one of the U.S. Air Force’s largest bases, Wright-Patterson. This base is also the home of the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is responsible for developing aerospace warfighting technology.
With a lack of laws in place in Ohio, our military sites, food, and economic security are at risk. Nearly half of all states have some type of restriction against foreign businesses or governments owning land. This legislation will also push Ohio into a shrinking number of states with land available to adversarial nations. We must act now to protect our national security and agricultural lands.
State Representative Angie King was elected in November 2022 to the Ohio House of Representatives. She represents the 84th House District, serving residents of Mercer, Darke and Auglaize counties.