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Foreign farmland purchase ban in Indiana advances at Statehouse
 
By Stan Maddux
Indiana Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS – A bill prohibiting Indiana farmland from being obtained by anyone from China and other foreign nations deemed enemies of the U.S. has advanced to the state Senate.
House Bill 1183 was sent to the Senate Committee on Agriculture for review on Feb. 12. The measure could go before the full Senate for a vote before the Indiana General Assembly session for this year ends in early March.
The Indiana House on Feb. 1 voted 122-96 in support of the proposal, which would ban residents, businesses and corporations from nations considered foreign adversaries of the U.S.  from buying or leasing Hoosier farmland.
The legislation was presented by Rep. Kendell Culp (R-16th district), who expressed a need to stop a growing trend.
“Indiana is one of the top producing agricultural states in the country and we need to protect our critical farm land and our control over our food supply,” he said. 
Culp, a farmer from Rensselaer, said concerns about food security and future of the nation’s agriculture industry are rising as the amount of farmland in the U.S. acquired by foreign entities rises. According to USDA, foreign ownership of land in the U.S. is up 40 percent since 2016.
As of 2022, more than 438,000 acres of Indiana farmland had owners from other countries.
Culp said the bill is a reflection of the lessons learned during the pandemic about relying too heavily on other countries to produce what can be made in America.
“Hoosier farmland is an indispensable asset to our state and nation, and this legislation is a strong step toward keeping it that way,” Culp said.
The bill would also prohibit people from countries viewed as an adversary from owning or leasing Indiana farm ground that includes mineral, water and riparian rights.
In addition, an affidavit confirming the purchaser is not from a country or nation working against the U.S. must be provided at the time of closing on the property.
The bill also requires the Indiana attorney general to investigate an acquisition or lease of agricultural land if there’s reason to believe there was a violation of law in the transfer. Violations of law would be subject to foreclosure in the courts.
The U.S. Department of Commerce maintains a list of adversarial countries.
Currently, the list includes China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela.
The bill could be amended during the review process before a possible vote in the Senate. The House would also have to approve any changes in the proposal before it could be submitted to the governor for his signature.
Sen. Mike Bohacek (R-8th district), waid farmland must be protected but the measure should be flexible enough to allow a foreign purchase that’s going to mean economic gains here at home.
“I don’t know how we’re going to address that completely. We’re still working through that,” he said.
Bohacek cited Kingsbury Industrial Park, which contains a lot of farm ground, as reason for the bill to include exceptions. He said a developer from China is interested in building a large corn processing plant there to capture the amino acids in the grain.
The amino acids, typically used for human and animal health purposes, would be distributed for sale from the site about 30 miles south of Lake Michigan.
“We’re actually a corn surplus area so it’s very good for the farmers if that facility goes in,” he said.
Bohacek also pointed out people would be hired to operate the facility and the products rolling out of the plant would be more readily available to consumers in the region instead of having to place orders for it from China.
“We might as well have them make the investment here and employ local people.  They’ll pay local taxes and shorten the supply chain for our folks, too,” he said.   
Indiana lawmakers U.S. Senator Mike Braun (R-Ind.) and U.S. Representative Jim Banks (R-Ind. 3rd district) submitted a public letter in support of the measure.
2/21/2024