By Jared Strong
A trio of state senators — two Republicans and one Democrat — recommended a bill Tuesday put forth by Gov. Kim Reynolds that would tighten reporting requirements for land that is owned or leased by foreigners.
“I think this is a great piece of legislation that’s going to advance our understanding of who our neighbors are,” said Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan. “And I think all of us need to know who they are, when currently that might be a little in question.”
Senate Study Bill 3113 would require companies or individuals of another country to reveal more information about their ownership, allow the state attorney general to subpoena that information and would stiffen penalties for those who fail to file timely and accurate ownership reports with the state.
Iowa already restricts foreign control of its agricultural land. In 2022, foreign landholdings were about 514,000 acres — less than 2% of the state’s total, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. And most of those acres were leased for wind and solar farms.
But the issue has been taken up by state and federal lawmakers and Republican presidential candidates, who have targeted China as a threat for taking control of U.S. farmland.
Last year, former President Donald Trump warned in a video released by his campaign of China’s influence in the United States, including “buying up our farmland.”
“To protect our country,” Trump said, “we need to enact aggressive new restrictions on Chinese ownership of any vital infrastructure in the United States, including energy, technology, telecommunications, farmland, natural resources, medical supplies and other strategic national assets.”
Syngenta Seeds LLC, a Chinese-owned company, has about 265 acres of cropland in Boone County, according to the USDA’s 2022 data. Canadian investors had Iowa landholdings that total about 199,000 acres.
Nationally, Canada’s share of landholdings was the largest and was nearly 60 times that of China.
The Iowa Senate bill requires foreigners to provide basic identifying information about themselves, their reason for acquiring landholdings and a list of those holdings in other states that total more than 250 acres. Updates to that reporting are required biennially.
It would empower the attorney general to subpoena a wide range of records — including purchase agreements, correspondence and memos — to determine whether foreigners are complying with those requirements.
And the bill would increase penalties for noncompliance: fines of up to 25% of the property value and $10,000 penalties for failures to file the periodic reports.
“I’m happy to sign this today,” said Sen. Dawn Driscoll, R-Williamsburg. “I think that this is great legislation proposed by the governor.”
Driscoll and Zumbach were joined by Sen. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids, in recommending the bill for further consideration in the Senate.
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