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Lawmakers once again trying to ban some foreigners from owning farmland in Mississippi

Lawmakers in Mississippi are once again looking to limit who can and cannot own farmland in the state.

The House of Representatives unanimously passed HB 1284, dubbed the Mississippi Foreign Land Ownership Act, which serves to limit ownership of agricultural and forestry land by foreigners who hail from a nation considered an adversary to the U.S. by the Secretary of Commerce.

A move that follows legislation signed by Governor Tate Reeves last year ultimately resulting in a study committee being formed to look into foreign land ownership in Mississippi, the current bill goes a step further.

Now, the Senate is discussing the bill with Forestry Committee Chair Tyler McCaughn explaining that they are seeking to keep hostile nations, particularly China, from having influence over the state’s largest economic driver — agriculture.

“We’re just trying to be sure that those who are our adversaries are not entitled to the majority ownership interest of land here in Mississippi,” Sen. McCaughn said on MidDays with Gerard Gibert. “China is one of our biggest, Russia, Iran — those are big countries that we don’t necessarily want here owning all of our [agriculture] land.”

Under provisions in the legislation, any majority interest holder of agricultural land who are from adversarial countries would be given a notice by the secretary of state’s office that they could either revoke their foreign citizenship to become an American citizen or surrender the land. Failure to adhere to the regulation would yield hefty fines ranging from as low as $100,000 for the first offense to as much as $5 million for the third offense and even seizure of the land by the state.

There is, however, an exception that allows companies that develop fertilizers or other agriculturally-related chemical products, such as Chinese-owned Syngenta, to utilize up to 500 acres of land penalty-free in Mississippi since the products are required to be tested in the state.

“If we’re going to utilize their products here, and unfortunately, we do utilize their products in the [agricultural] industry, we’ve gotta be sure those are going to work here in Mississippi,” McCaughn said.

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