© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Missouri Senate votes to bar foreign ownership of farmland in the state

The Missouri State Capitol on Thursday, Jan. 25, 2024, in Jefferson City. Senate Republican leadership has clashed with members of the Missouri Freedom Caucus holding up business.
Eric Lee
St. Louis Public Radio
The Missouri Capitol in January. Members of the state Senate voted 27-2 on Tuesday to pass a bill containing a ban on foreign entities acquiring Missouri farmland in the future.

The Missouri Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would restrict any future acquisitions of state farmland by foreign entities.

Senators voted 27-2 in favor of the legislation. It now goes to the House, where a similar bill was briefly heard Tuesday morning.

Through the legislation, no foreign body would be able to “acquire by grant, purchase, devise, descent, or otherwise” any state agricultural land that is within 500 miles of any military facility in Missouri.

“From a practical perspective, this will have the effect of prohibiting foreign entities from buying agricultural land in the state of Missouri,” Sen. Bill Eigel, the sponsor of the provision, said.

The Weldon Spring Republican initially brought up the amendment containing the restrictions in mid-March.

Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo, voted against the bill. She said in March that she disliked the provision because it restricted what farmers could do with their own land.

“I don't think it's fair that you tell farmers who to sell their land to and you don't tell anyone else who they can sell their land to,” Crawford said then.

Crawford also said the legislation would ultimately slow down all sales of agricultural land going forward.

The legislation is not retroactive, meaning any currently foreign-owned land could not be taken away. It would, however, stop those entities from gaining more.

Some farmland in Missouri already is owned by foreign entities. Smithfield Foods, which was bought by a Chinese company, owns some in the state.

Through state law, up to 1% of Missouri’s farmland can be foreign-owned. That is due to a law passed by state lawmakers in 2013 that lifted a total ban on foreign ownership of farmland.

Then-Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the legislation, but lawmakers later overturned that veto.

In January, Gov. Mike Parson issued an executive order that barred any individuals or companies from nations recognized federally as foreign adversaries from acquiring farmland within a 10-mile radius of military facilities in the state.

Under that executive order, nations categorized as foreign adversaries are China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

Parson said the order was the most he could do at the time due to the current state laws. He also said the order was a placeholder to see what the legislature would or would not pass concerning the foreign ownership of farmland.

Unlike Parson’s order, the Senate-approved bill stops the sale of land to any entity, not just those deemed adversarial.

The governor said in January that banning the purchase of farmland to non-adversaries would be harmful to the state’s economy.

“We must ensure that we are not disrupting Missouri’s economy or Missouri lives. These nations pose no threat. These nations are our allies,” Parson said.

The legislation could go through changes in the House, meaning it would once again need Senate approval.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.