Republican lawmakers spoke with farmers during a roundtable event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, about the purchase of American farmland by foreign adversaries, particularly China. The consensus: More direct confrontation is needed.
Not only is farmland availability at stake, but there is growing concern that the ownership of this farmland will give Chinese researchers greater access to U.S. seed and other ag technology, as well as create a trade imbalance.
“What keeps me up at night is that if they are stealing our seeds and they’re reverse engineering them to know what makes them hardy, what makes them drought resistant, what makes them pest resistant, what’s to say they couldn’t turn that around on us,” said U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson in an interview on Fox & Friends. Hinson was joined late last week by U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa and U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin during a roundtable discussion at the Cedar Rapids Country Club.
In recent months, more than a dozen individual states have attempted to pass legislation to restrict farmland purchases by foreign entities, and this summer, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee voted 34-26 to adopt an amendment to the Agriculture and Rural Development Appropriations bill that would restrict the purchasing of U.S. agricultural land by the Chinese Communist Party, Russia, North Korea, or Iran.
The Fox & Friends host described cases of suspected Chinese nationals in suits digging into American farmland to access planted seeds.
John Boyd Jr., a Virginia farmer and president of the National Black Farmers Association, also came onto the Fox News program, saying, “This is a threat to American agriculture here at home. China is quietly stealing American agriculture by stealing our land, and now Iowa farmers have also helped to expose what China is doing. When you’re stealing seeds, you’re stealing intellectual property from the United States.”
Iowa has experienced thefts of agricultural products by Chinese operatives. TV station KCGR describes how, in 2016, a man admitted to stealing inbred corn seeds from Iowa with the intent to send them to China. He received a prison sentence of three years. Something similar happened in 2012 with at least six people trying to steal agriculture trade secrets for China.
“Their goal is to create chaos, so we don’t do as well,” Hinson said at the roundtable. “That’s why it’s important to spot these issues because we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can, and we have every system in place to protect ourselves.”