A subsidiary of Chinese government-owned company Syngenta Seeds LLC has been ordered by Arkansas officials to divest itself of 160 acres of agricultural land in Craighead County.
Enforcing Act 636: On Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Attorney General Tim Griffin jointly announced the enactment of Act 636 of 2023, which prohibits certain foreign parties from acquiring an interest in Arkansas agricultural land.
The new legislation marks the first instance of a state enforcing stringent laws restricting foreign ownership of farmland, with profound implications for the future of foreign land investments in the U.S.
Divestiture and fines: Speaking to reporters at the state Capitol, Griffin identified the land as being “owned by Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds LLC, which is ultimately owned by China National Chemical Co. (ChemChina), a state-owned enterprise.”
Griffin’s office has given Syngenta two years to divest itself of the Craighead County property. The state has also imposed a civil penalty of $280,000 on Syngenta for failing to report foreign ownership in a timely manner, as required by another state law, Act 1046 of 2021.
“Threat” to the state: Sanders accused Syngenta of using the Northeast Arkansas acreage primarily for seed research and deemed ChemChina a “clear threat to our state,” as it is included on a U.S. Department of Defense list of Chinese military companies.
“Seeds are technology,” she said. “China’s state-owned corporations filter that technology back to their homeland, stealing American research and telling our enemies how to target American farms. That is a clear threat to our national security and to our great farmers.”
Syngenta Responds: Syngenta, which has held the land since 1988, said it uses it for research and development, expressing disappointment in the state’s decision. In a statement released on Tuesday, it emphasized that no one from China has directed its executives to engage in land acquisition in the U.S. The company further noted that it has a longstanding presence in the country, focusing on developing and testing products sold domestically, adhering to all laws, regulations, and reviews.