State Senate bill latest attempt to limit foreign ownership of Missouri farms

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ST. LOUIS — The issue of foreign ownership of Missouri farmland has been a near-annual legislative issue for lawmakers over much of the last decade, and the 2021 session has proven no different. The latest bill to address the topic was heard in a State Senate hearing this week.

SB 243, sponsored by Doug Beck, whose district includes portions of South St. Louis County, would prevent “foreign individuals” from purchasing agricultural land in the state.

Under current state law, foreign interests can own one percent of the total aggregate agricultural acreage in Missouri. The proposed Senate bill would not change that, but would ban the sale or transfer of land to foreign interests moving forward.

“Our farmland is a finite and precious resource that should not be controlled by foreign interests as this jeopardizes both our food security and our national security,” Senator Beck said in a news release this week. “We should be looking to Missourians and Americans first when it comes to who has control of this valuable resource.”

Governor Mike Parson was asked about the bill. He said that the state already has a cap on foreign investments.

“There is already a percentage of land that can be owned by foreign investments in the state of Missouri. This is already the law,” said Gov. Parson.

The bill has the support of the Missouri Farm Bureau and Missouri Rural Crisis. It was opposed in a committee hearing March 1 by Smithfield Farms, The Missouri Pork Association, Missouri Realtors, Missouri Land and Title, and Missouri Title Underwriters.

Smithfield Farms lobbied heavily for a 2013 bill that led to the one percent standard, at the same time the company was being sold to Shuanghui International of Hong Kong.

Senate Bill 243 was not moved out of committee this week.

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