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Indiana Statehouse

Source: PHOTO: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

STATEHOUSE — About two percent of Indiana’s farmland is owned by a foreign country and there is concern from lawmakers in the Statehouse that more land could soon be taken over by foreign nations, especially those deemed enemies of the U.S.

There is a bill now moving through the State Senate aimed at cracking down on the purchase of farmland by foreign adversaries. Those include six countries: China, Iran, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and the “Maduro Regime” of Venezuela.

“House Bill 1183 prohibits adversarial countries of the United States from purchasing or leasing Indiana farmland,” said the bill’s author State Rep. Kendell Culp (R-Rensselaer). “(More specifically) it prohibits an individual, a business entity, public, private, or government entity from owning or leasing a majority interest in Indiana farmland.”

Culp told the State Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday that the goal is for Indiana to do its part in protecting the country’s national security. He said Chinese interests own about 400,000 acres of land in the U.S. and that those numbers are growing at an “alarming rate.”

Chinese companies only own about 618 acres of land currently in Indiana.

Part of this prohibition of foreign nationals from adversarial countries from owning farmland includes provisions that the farmland in question can not be within a ten-mile radius of a smaller military instillation and not within a 50-mile radius of a larger one like Naval Air Station Crane or Grissom Air Force Base.

This bill also grandfathers in land already owned or leased by foreign nationals who are from one of the six aforementioned countries. It also still allows people to buy or lease land if they have dual citizenship.

Some Democrats are on board with the bill, but others like State Sen. Fady Qaddoura (D-Indianapolis) have issues with it. He feels the bill will adversely impact people from these countries looking to escape and seek a better life for themselves. Other organizations who testified to the committee agree with Qaddoura.

“You are telling them they are no longer welcome here except as employees of someone else,” said Chris Daley with the ACLU of Indiana. “They cannot participate as owners of businesses if that includes owning or renting a storefront,” he said. “What about renewing a lease? What about when a lease changes?”

Several changes have been made to the bill in the State Senate under the watchful eye of Culp. The bill was approved by the Ag committee on Monday and now heads to the full Senate for consideration. If passed there it would have to be re-approved by the Indiana House before the end of the session.