CFIUS Bill Co-Sponsored by Oklahoma Congressman Seeks Greater Oversight of Foreign Land Purchases
Washington Bureau -Alex Cameron - July 19, 2023 7:30 am
Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas
WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Leadership of the Select Committee on the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) has introduced legislation to give the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) greater jurisdiction over land purchases by foreign adversary entities and require mandatory CFIUS filing for foreign adversary entities making land purchases near sensitive sites, including all military facilities. The bill is cosponsored by Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas.
“This is something I’ve worked on for a number of years,” Rep. Lucas (R-OK3) said in an interview Tuesday.
Lucas has been concerned about the purchase, not only of farmland, but of food processing plants and other parts of the supply chain by for foreign entities. In 2021, he introduced legislation to put the Secretary of Agriculture on the CFIUS Board and thus ensure that food security would be factored into CFIUS’s broader national security considerations. The legislation went nowhere.
“When news came out, not many months ago, that the Chinese had purchased farmland next to a military base,” Lucas explained, “it suddenly got the attention of all of my colleagues. So, there’s [now] a piece of legislation, moving through to address that issue.”
Lucas is frustrated it took China acquiring a farm next to a military base to get members as concerned as he has been, but nevertheless is thankful there is now movement on the issue.
The Protecting U.S. Farmland and Sensitive Sites From Foreign Adversaries Act would give CFIUS jurisdiction over all land purchases, with exceptions for real estate in urban areas and single housing units, by foreign adversary entities, such as China. It would also, at Lucas’s urging, authorize CFIUS to consider U.S. food security as a factor in its national security reviews and require the Secretary of Agriculture have a vote in CFIUS reviews of transactions that involve farmland or agriculture technology.
Oklahoma already has a state law on the books prohibiting the purchase of farmland by foreign entities, Lucas said, but he says the legalization of medical marijuana several years ago has made it difficult to enforce.
“You have these foreigners come in, they’ll set up a shell corporation, an LLC, that will own another LLC that’ll own another LLC that then will buy out absentee landlords,” Lucas said, “and suddenly their neighbors wake up and say ‘Who’s next door to me?'”
The bill’s primary sponsors are interested, first and foremost, in fixing what they see as a vulnerability that could compromise military secrets. Lucas acknowledges that concern but says the nation’s food security is also extremely important.
“The people who control your farmland, who control your processing plants, who control your food distribution systems, that’s important, too,” emphasized the Cheyenne rancher. “So, finally the right things going to happen.”
Lucas believes the bill will move quickly through both the House and Senate.
Asked whether he would be inclined to support the bill, Rep. Josh Brecheen (R-OK2) on Tuesday said he would.
“When we have balloons that are coming into the intercontinental boundaries of the United States and they are looking at our military preparedness,” Brecheen said in an interview, “and we have land that’s being bought by people that have ties to the CCP that is close to those military installations, we absolutely need to be doing all that we can for national defense purposes.”
In addition to China, the other countries the State Department currently considers ‘foreign adversaries’ are: Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba; and also one individual — Venezuelan politician Nicolas Maduro.