Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said Thursday that Syngenta Seeds LLC has paid the $280,000 civil penalty he imposed for violating a state law that bans some foreign-owned companies from owning agricultural land here.
Griffin last month ordered Syngenta and its subsidiary, Northrup King Seed Co., to pay the fine and divest within about two years the 160 acres it owns in Craighead County. Syngenta Seeds is owned by China National Chemical Company, or ChemChina, a state-owned enterprise.
“Because Syngenta is foreign owned — ultimately by the Chinese Communist Party — it was required to report its ownership of agricultural land to the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture,” Griffin said in a statement on Thursday. “It failed to timely do so — filing the report well after the deadline. Now Syngenta must divest itself of the land it owns in Craighead County.”
Griffin has said Syngenta is in violation of Act 636 of 2023, which prohibits certain foreign 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.
The fine is 25% of the fair market value of the 160 acres the company owns in Craighead County.
“This serves as a warning to all other Chinese state-owned companies operating in Arkansas — I am investigating these types of properties throughout the state and will exercise all powers afforded to my office under the law,” Griffin said in his statement. “As a 27-year Army officer, I can state unequivocally that our concerns over Chinese interests in America’s strategic assets are well-founded and demand action.”
Northrup King Seed Co. is a corn and soybean seed provider. Reports indicate that Syngenta has owned Northrup King, also known as NK Seeds, since the 90s.
In a special Oct. 31 column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Syngenta President Eric Boeck called the action a “short-sighted public ultimatum that doesn’t have the American farmers or independent seed companies we serve best interests at heart.” He said the company uses the land for “research, development, regulatory trials, and production to meet the needs of American farmers and to drive competition and innovation within the U.S. agricultural market.”
“The suggestion that China is using Syngenta to purchase land or conduct operations in the U.S. for any purpose other than supporting the company’s commercial business in North America is simply false,” he wrote. “In our longstanding and close working relationship with the U.S. government, we have always emphasized transparency with all relevant agencies to ensure compliance with laws and regulations, including respecting intellectual property rights.”
The company said it has 4,000 workers in the U.S.