On Wednesday, the North Carolina House passed a bill to ban China and other foreign adversaries from purchasing N.C. agricultural land and property within 25 miles of the state’s military bases.

The federal government determines the list of hostile foreign countries, currently including China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. China owns the most land of any hostile foreign government in the United States, holding more than Bill Gates, who recently became the largest private owner of farmland.

House Bill 463‘s lead sponsors are Reps. John Bell, R-Wayne, Jennifer Balkcom, R-Henderson, Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth, and Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. A large bipartisan coalition of lawmakers signed onto the bill as cosponsors.

Rep. Destin Hall (left), R-Caldwell, and Rep. John Bell (right), R-Wayne, review legislation before a floor vote. Photo courtesy of David Cobb, Office of House Rules Chairman Destin Hall.

“By preventing these foreign land grabs, this legislation will mitigate an unnecessary threat to our national and food security,” said Bell. “With agriculture and military making up our state’s top two economic impacts, it is critical that we ensure our military bases and farmland are protected and secure.”

The bill passed the House unanimously, with all Democrats and Republicans present voting in favor.

“As someone who grew up on a family farm, preserving North Carolina’s farmland is a top priority,” said Balkcom. “Our state’s agricultural land is one of our most important assets and it is common sense that we protect it from foreign governments that do not have America’s best interests in mind.”  

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says China’s American agricultural land holdings have increased more than tenfold in the last decade, with China investing as much as $2 billion in American agricultural land ownership at the beginning of 2020. 

Eighteen states, including South Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Virginia, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas, currently have laws restricting foreign private investment in agricultural land.

H.B. 463 has the support of the N.C. Farm Bureau, according to a statement from the organization:

The bill is now awaiting consideration in the Senate.