(The Center Square) – Florida’s new Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson wants to restrict the sale of The Sunshine State’s farmland to foreign countries after increasing concerns about what foreign buyers – namely Chinese companies closely affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) – are doing with the agricultural land once they purchase it.
Food costs and supply are becoming a point of contention for Floridians and Americans as a whole, and there is worry that the continuation of farmland sales to foreign entities could cause food prices to be intentionally inflated or production could be shut down altogether.
According to a 2020 report from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), foreign ownership sits at 1,272,474 acres or 5.8 percent of the 21,849,568 acres of agricultural land in Florida. USDA data also shows that foreign ownership has significantly increased over the past few decades – in 1980, 202,101 acres or 0.8% of agricultural land was owned by foreign entities. By the year 2000, foreign ownership of agricultural land had hit over a million acres in Florida alone.
“We have a responsibility to ensure Floridians have access to a safe, abundant and affordable food supply. Restricting foreign control of our ag land and key military land will protect our state, provide long-term stability and preserve economic freedom.” Simpson said in the caption.
The incoming commissioner said that no one really knows what the land is used for once it is purchased.
“We really don’t know. That’s part of the problem. You do have to register with the Federal government when there are certain lands bought. But there is not a good control of that,” Simpson said.
Protecting domestic security is a priority for Simpson, who told Fox13, “We have military installations around this state, and around Hillsborough County, that we would not want foreign nationals to own, hostile foreign nationals to own around our military bases,” Simpson added.
The threat to national security has been a concern for some time as Beijing-linked Chinese companies have been buying up large areas of farmland across the United States, some close to key military bases.
Recently, a CCP-affiliated company purchased hundreds of acres of land in North Dakota only 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
In September, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis held a news conference on the emerging risk of espionage and proposed legislative measures to curtail it in the Sunshine State.
“From server farms to farmland, the Communist Party of China has been worming its way into our nation’s data storage systems and buying up tracts of land near sensitive national security sites,” the governor said.
“By prohibiting the purchase of lands, state contracts with Chinese technology firms, and the infiltration of CCP-affiliated groups such as Confucius Institutes, Florida is leading the way to protect our nation from international foes,” DeSantis said.