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Parson restricts countries like China from owning Missouri farmland near military installations

A man drives a green tractor in a field.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson issued an executive order Tuesday stopping foreign adversaries from purchasing state farmland within a 10-mile radius of 'critical military facilities.'

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson issued an executive order Tuesday limiting the purchase of farmland within a 10-mile radius of “critical military facilities” by foreign adversaries.

“This order safeguards our military and intelligence assets, prevents security threats to our state and gives Missourians greater peace of mind,” Parson said.

Under the executive order, nations categorized as foreign adversaries by the U.S. government include: China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela.

Critical military facilities are defined in the order as all staffed military facilities in Missouri.

Additionally, the order grants the Missouri Department of Agriculture greater oversight and enforcement authority on foreign agricultural land purchases.

Parson said this executive order was the most he could do under current state law.

“If I had the authority, we wouldn't just be talking about banning farmland, but all commercial properties by foreign adversaries, regardless of rural or urban,” Parson said.

As to how the order would be enforced, Parson said those rules will need to be developed.

Parson’s actions came one day before the start of the 2024 Missouri legislative session, where the foreign ownership of farmland is expected to again be a topic of interest.

Currently, up to 1% of Missouri’s total agricultural land can be owned by foreign countries. That allowance is due to a law passed by state lawmakers in 2013 that lifted the total ban on foreign ownership of farmland.

Then-Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill, but his veto was later overridden.

Missouri lawmakers reached a stalemate last session over legislation that would have barred any further foreign purchase of state farmland.

The Missouri House’s proposed legislation lowered the amount of total agricultural land that could be owned by foreign countries from 1% to 0.5%.

It also included a list of five countries — China, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela — that would be prohibited from purchasing any further land.

The House’s bill would have also continued to allow the foreign purchase of farmland to entities not deemed adversaries.

Meanwhile, some bills in the Senate contained a total ban on future foreign purchases of farmland, even if the country in question was an ally.

No legislation on the topic made it through both chambers of the legislature.

Parson said Tuesday that bills barring the purchase of farmland beyond the United States’ adversaries would be harmful to the state.

“We must ensure that we are not disrupting Missouri’s economy or Missouri lives. These nations pose no threat. These nations are our allies,” Parson said.

However, that opinion isn’t universally shared.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, who is running for governor, issued a statement on the executive order, saying she has again filed legislation that would block any additional purchase of state farmland by foreign entities.

“This year the legislature has the opportunity to come together to ensure that foreign entities aren’t able to buy out local Missourians and the beautiful farmland across our state,” Quade said.

Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, who also is running for governor, likewise supports prohibiting the sale of Missouri land to all foreign entities.

He admonished both Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, for voting for the state legislation lifting the ban over 10 years ago.

The governor said this executive order is a placeholder to see if lawmakers pass legislation regarding this topic this session.

“If not, we do have some protection for Missouri citizens with this executive order,” Parson said.

Some farmland is already owned by foreign entities. Smithfield Foods, which was bought by China, currently owns farmland in the state.

Parson said Tuesday the state doesn’t believe any land is currently owned within the new 10-mile restrictions.

The new executive order would not retroactively apply to land already purchased.

Copyright 2024 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Kellogg is a first year graduate student at the University of Missouri studying public affairs reporting. She spent her undergraduate days as a radio/television major and reported for KBIA. In addition to reporting shifts, Sarah also hosted KBIA’s weekly education show Exam, was an afternoon newscaster and worked on the True/False podcast. Growing up, Sarah listened to episodes of Wait Wait...Don’t Tell Me! with her parents during long car rides. It’s safe to say she was destined to end up in public radio.
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