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AG Tim Griffin Orders China-Owned Company to Divest Arkansas Farmland

2 min read

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday announced that he’s ordering a company owned by the Chinese government to divest about 160 acres of land in Craighead County.

The land is owned by corn and soybean seed provider Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds LLC, which is owned by China National Chemical Company, or ChemChina, a state-owned enterprise. Reports indicate that Syngenta has owned Northrup King, also known as NK Seeds, since the 90s.

Griffin said he’s taking action under a new law passed during this year’s regular legislative session that bans prohibited foreign entities from owning Arkansas agricultural lands. Act 636 prohibits such entities from acquiring or holding public or private land in Arkansas either directly or through affiliated parties.

The law defines a “prohibited foreign party” as individuals or entities with a connection to a country subject to federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations. China is subject to the regulations, which restrict and control the export of defense and military related technologies.

Arkansas is the first state in the nation to take enforcement action under a foreign ownership law, according to Micah Brown, staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center.  “There’s been a lot of attention on states enacting these laws, but there wasn’t much enforcement action, if any at all,” he said in a statement.

Griffin said he’s also imposing a civil penalty of $280,000 for failure to report foreign ownership in a timely manner. The amount represents 25% of the reported fair market value of the property, the maximum civil penalty allowed under Act 1046 of 2021.

In a letter to Northup King and Syngenta, Griffin said the penalty must be paid within 30 days.

He warned that if the land isn’t divested within two years, he’ll take legal action in Craighead County Circuit Court.

Arkansas is among 12 states, most of them led by Republicans, that recently enacted or amended a law restricting certain foreign investments in land located within their states, according to the National Agricultural Law Center.

Most of the laws target China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

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