Legislation to Ban Foreign Ownership of Georgia Agricultural Land Heads to Governor’s Desk

A bill to prohibit foreign ownership of agricultural land is headed to Governor Kemp’s desk for signature.

The measure gained final passage Tuesday, the second to last day of the 2024 legislative session.

Sponsors of the bill say the legislation is aimed at safeguarding Georgia’s agricultural interests, food supply and national security. Sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, a Republican from Paulding County, Senate Bill 420 “aims to prohibit perilous foreign adversaries from owning agricultural land or land within a 10-mile radius of a military base, installation, or airport in Georgia.”

The measure had thirty-three co-sponsors in the Senate, all of whom are Republican, with the exception of Senator Ed Harbison.

SB 420, was crafted in response to a 2021 Department of Agriculture report revealing that China possessed 384,000 acres of American agricultural land, marking a 30% increase from 2019 to 2020.

From the Senate press release:

An illustrative instance of China’s strategic land acquisition emerged in 2022 when Fufeng Group, a Chinese entity linked to the Chinese Communist Party, sought to purchase land near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota. Apart from jeopardizing economic stability and overall security at both state and national levels, foreign dominion over such assets imperils the nation’s food supply and the livelihoods of Georgia farmers.

SB 420 complies with federal fair housing regulations by exempting primary residences from its purview and stipulates timeframes for covered nonresident aliens to divest agricultural properties they presently own or may acquire in the future through debt settlement or inheritance.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Defines ‘Agent of a foreign government’ as
    • Any person who acts as an agent, representative, employee, or servant, or any person who acts in any other capacity at the order, request, or under the direction or control, of a foreign government or of a person any of whose activities are directly or indirectly supervised, directed, controlled, financed, or subsidized in whole or in major part by a foreign government, and who directly or through any other person
      • Engages within the US in political activities for or in the interests of such foreign government
      • Acts within the US as a public relations counsel, publicity agent, information service employee, or political consultant for or in the interests of such foreign government
      • Within the US solicits, collects, disburses, or dispenses contributions, loans, money, or other things of value for or in the interests of such foreign government
      • Within the US represents the interests of such foreign government before any agency or official of the government of the United States
    • A person who holds themselve out to be the above (with or without a contractual relationship)
  • Defines ‘Nonresident alien’ means’
    • any person who is not a US citizen or legal resident, is an agent of a foreign government designated as a foreign adversary by the United States Secretary of Commerce AND
    • Has either
      • been physically absent from the US for more than six months out of the most recent 12 months preceding the acquisition of a possessory interest described in this Code section
      • been physically absent from Georgia for more than two months out of the most recent 12 months preceding the acquisition of a possessory interest
  • Applies to land that is:
    • agricultural land or land within a ten-mile radius of any military base, military installation, or military airport
    • does NOT apply to residential properties
  • The bill also applies to corporations, partnerships, LLCs and other business entities that meet the standards above

The bill passed in the Senate in a vote of 41-11 with two senators not voting – Sen. Nan Orrock and Sen. Jason Esteves.

In the House, the measure was sponsored by Representative Clay Pirkle. On the House floor, it passed 97-67 with Reps. Stacey Evans (D), John Carson (R), and Matt Reeves (R) opting not to vote.

Senator Anavitarte, reflecting on the passage of the legislation, stated, “the Chinese government essentially validated our longstanding suspicions of their willingness to undermine our national security, as evidenced by their deployment of spy balloons over military installations just last year. I take great pride in authoring this legislation, and I am confident that it will shield all Georgians while prioritizing homeland security.”

You can read the bill in its entirety here.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and a commentator on the 'Let Me Tell You Why You're Wrong Podcast.'

Sign up for her weekly newsletter: http://eepurl.com/gzYAZT

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