Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced that Arkansas will require a Chinese-owned company to sell its farmland in Arkansas, saying it will be a first in the nation move that bans foreign parties from "owning agricultural land" in the state, THV11 reported.
Sanders, along with Attorney General Tim Griffin and other Republican leaders, said that the company Syngenta will have to sell around 160 acres of land in Craighead County, Arkansas. The company has headquarters based in Switzerland and owned by ChemChina, which is a Chinese state-owned business that primarily deals with seeds and pesticides.
ChemChina is listed by the U.S. Department of Defense as one of many "Chinese military companies" that operate directly or indirectly in the country.
The announcement comes after the legislature passed a law earlier in 2023 that bans a foreign party controlled business from owning land in Arkansas.
Sanders claimed Chinese companies operating in the U.S. send back information and technology, "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, especially since the Chinese government enacted a law in 2017, requiring Chinese citizens abroad to collaborate with their country's security officials on intelligence work with no questions asked," the governor said.
That law states "any organization" must assist or cooperate with state intelligence work. Another Chinese law said "relevant organizations" can't refuse to collect evidence for an investigation.
"We will make sure that every company operating in Arkansas is a friend to Arkansas and good to hardworking Arkansans," Sanders said.
Syngenta has been notified of the decision and if they refuse, AG Griffin will move forward with legal proceedings to "force" them out of Arkansas.
"There is nothing that is off limits for [China] if they think that it will strengthen them strategically," Griffin explained at the press conference. "Whether it be related to engineering or the ability to feed their people, which is a challenge for them."
Griffin said Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta, will have to divest itself of the land in Craighead County within in two years. If the company fails to do that, Arkansas can have a civil penalty fine of up to 25% of the value of the property.
The attorney general said the property is worth around $1.12 million, so the fine would be a maximum of $280,000.