TRENTON, N.J. – New Jersey must protect its precious and valuable agricultural lands from potentially hostile foreign investors, Assemblyman Alex Sauickie says.
Sauickie, the newest member of the Assembly and its Agriculture and Food Security Committee, said he is working hard to protect farmland and recently had a major reform of the state’s farmland preservation program pass the Assembly unanimously.
A bill he introduced last week (A5120) would prohibit foreign governments and persons from owning farmland in the Garden State. He said he was encouraged to see that a similar bill was then promptly introduced in the Senate.
“The bill doesn’t specifically name a particular country or government, but the Chinese Communist Party is on everyone’s mind on this issue. Their government does not yet own much farmland throughout our country, but like them, we need to take the long view and get ahead of any potential threats to our food security,” Sauickie (R-Ocean) said. “In this case, we need to think more about the green fields that feed our people than the greenbacks that could be had by selling them to foreign powers. It won’t matter how much money you have if there’s no food to buy. We can view this as nothing less than a national security risk.”
There are 895.3 million active acres of agriculture-related lands throughout the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of that, foreign governments such as Canada, Germany and Italy own more than 35 million acres. The CCP currently owns what looks like only 192,000 acres, or 0.02% of all the farmland in the U.S.
Investing in foreign farmlands is part of the CCP’s “One Belt One Road” economic development plan, which calls for more direct control of its food supply chain. The country’s ownership exponentially exploded between 2010 and 2020, from $81 million to $1.8 billion in farmland. Controversially, the Agricultural Bank of China, controlled by the CCP, purchased Smithfield Food, the world’s largest pork producer, back in 2013.
“The concern I have, in addition to the fact that China is controlled by a totalitarian Communist regime, is not the exact amount owned at the moment, but the speed with which they have exponentially grown their ownings over the last decade,” Sauickie added. “If this continues unabated, we’ll be beholden to Xi Jinping for our families’ food needs.”
His bill would require foreign governments and persons who already own agricultural land in New Jersey to sell that land five years after the legislation’s passage. The land would have to remain in use for agricultural purposes.
Nine states – Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin – restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land. Iowa, home to nearly 31 million acres of farmland, has among the strictest. And at least eight other states — Alabama, Arkansas, California, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Texas – are considering similar bans. (California’s was passed but vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.)
“Food security is critical to ensuring that all New Jersey residents have food on the table. That’s why there’s bipartisan support for banning China from owning American farmland,” Sauickie added. “We need to have strict laws like mine on our books to proactively protect New Jersey farmland and ultimately our food supply from harm.”