A bipartisan bill recommended by Iowa legislators hopes to tighten reporting requirements for foreign landholders in the state.
Senate Study Bill 3113, proposed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week, would require more detailed and robust information to be disclosed by foreign investors. Increased tracking of ownership would also grant the Iowa Attorney General’s Office greater subpoena authority to investigate violations of state laws on foreign ownership.
“I think this is a great piece of legislation that’s going to advance our understanding of who our neighbors are,” said Republican state Sen. Dan Zumbach, who supports the bill. “And I think all of us need to know who they are, when currently that might be a little in question.”
Reynolds and supportive state lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Dawn Driscoll and Democratic Sen. Todd Taylor, argue that Iowa’s existing robust laws on foreign land ownership would be further strengthened by her proposed bill, even though most of the newly disclosed information would be shielded from public access.
Under the bill, the Iowa secretary of state would be mandated to file an annual report on foreign farmland ownership, accessible to state lawmakers but not to the public, a provision that Zumbach expresses no concern about.
“I think the information, when this is all said and done, that the public will be able to have some redacted versions of that of what’s going on,” Zumbach told reporters. “But I think at this point, we’re good where we’re at. … I think I like where the legislation is at this point.”
The new bill also mandates that individuals from foreign countries provide essential personal details, the purpose behind acquiring land, and a comprehensive list of holdings exceeding 250 acres in other states.
Updates to this information would be required to be submitted biennially. The proposed legislation also seeks to heighten penalties for noncompliance, including fines amounting to 25 percent of the property value and $10,000 penalties for failure to file periodic reports.
Iowa’s current primary legislation on foreign land ownership prohibits “non-resident alien, foreign business or foreign government” entities from purchasing agricultural land in the state. Exceptions exist for those who owned Iowa farmland before January 1, 1980, allowing them to retain existing holdings but prohibiting further acquisitions. Specific exemptions include farmland utilized for seed or plant development and land designated for research or experimentation, excluding profit-oriented activities.
Although Iowa already limits foreigners from acquiring over 320 acres of land, the bill proposes a higher fine structure for violations tied to the farmland’s value, with the current penalty set at $2000.
As of 2022, foreign landholdings in Iowa accounted for around 514,000 acres, less than 2 percent of the state’s total, primarily utilized for wind and solar farms. On a national scale, Canada held the largest share of landholdings.
»Related: Who owns Iowa farmland? Too often, it’s not farmers