Missouri Governor Ends Chinese Land Purchases Near Military Bases

Missouri Governor Mike Parson on January 2 signed an executive order prohibiting China, Russia, and other countries blacklisted by the United States from purchasing land near military bases in the state, the Associated Press reported.

The federal government has deemed China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela as foreign adversaries. Under Parson’s executive order, land that is within ten miles of a staffed military site in Missouri cannot be sold to individuals or entities from those countries.

In a press conference announcing the order, Governor Parson told reporters that the actions taken in the order go as far as legally permitted. He said he would watch to see if Missouri lawmakers can pass any legislation on the issue by the end of the first legislative session in mid-May.

The first legislative session began on January 3. Senate President, Republican Caleb Rowden, has said passing similar legislation would be a top priority.

Parson conceded that Missouri has not had any issues with foreign adversaries purchasing land near military bases, but said he wanted the state “to be proactive against any potential threat.”

According to the Department of Agriculture, as of 2022, less than 2 percent of US land is owned by foreign individuals or entities. Of that, less than 1 percent is owned by Chinese companies. The largest percentage of foreign-owned land in the United States is held by Canadian investors.

Missouri was one of several Midwestern states to enact laws in the 1970s prohibiting or restricting foreign ownership of land due to concerns over the explosion of Japanese property investment at the time.

The state completely prohibited foreign land ownership until 2013 when state lawmakers passed a bill allowing as much as 1 percent of agricultural land to be owned by foreign entities.

Parson, who was in the state Senate at the time, voted in favor of the bill, which also revised the state’s animal abuse and neglect law and imposed a higher maximum sentence for stealing livestock.

As of 2021, Chinese entities owned 172 square kilometers (42,596 acres) of agricultural land in Missouri. Most of that is owned by the Chinese conglomerate that acquired Smithfield Foods in 2013.