Wilton Simpson, the Republican seemingly on track to become Florida’s next agriculture commissioner, said if elected, he will seek to block the purchase of Sunshine State farmlands by governments hostile to the U.S.
Campaigning in Jacksonville on Thursday, Simpson, who most recently served as Florida Senate president, told the conservative website Florida’s Voice that such legislation was one of his top priorities.
He said he would work hard on “outlawing the idea that our foreign enemies can buy real estate in the state of Florida, farmlands and ag lands.”
Simpson, whose duties also would include overseeing Florida’s database of concealed-weapons permit-holders, added that he is “putting a bill together that’s gonna address this issue with credit card companies trying to identify people within the state that buy guns or ammunition and things of that nature.”
“I hope to bring some common sense back to the Department of Agriculture after four years of lacking” under current Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat.
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Although Simpson did not specifically mention it, many Republicans worry about China gobbling up more and more of America’s farmland.
In September, for example, as The Free Press reported, a Chinese pharmaceutical company paid $5.5 million for 1,400 acres in rural Levy County to be used for a facility to raise research monkeys – which is a concern as the debate about the origin of the COVID-19 virus rages on.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the website Successful Farming, China owns between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent of America’s farmlands.
Still, that amounts to about 1.8 million to 4.5 million acres — areas that, respectively, are larger than the states of Delaware on the low end or Connecticut on the high end.
But as Successful Farming noted in September, Chinese companies are buying farms near American military bases, raising another concern.
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The National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas reports that 14 states have outright bans on foreign ownership of ag lands. Another eight do so with caveats, either blocking such ownership of public lands or restricting purchases by businesses but not individuals.
Canada is actually the home of the largest share of U.S. farmland owned by foreign interests.