Bill tightens Iowa’s ban on foreign ownership of farmland

DES MOINES — Governor Kim Reynolds says “American farmland needs to remain in American hands” and she will quickly sign one of the first bills to clear the 2024 legislature.

The bill closes a loophole that could let foreigners or foreign governments be investors in limited liability companies or involved in trusts that acquire Iowa farmland. The bill requires agland purchase reports filed with the state to include more information about ownership structures. Republican Representative Derek Wulf, a farmer from Hudson, said purchasers will also have to file a complete list of all their landholdings in the United States.

“Chinese nationals are buying farmland near military bases. They’re looking to steal our intellectual property from our seed and genetic companies. They’re trying to steal our livestock practices and advancements learned through generations of agriculturalists — and these are only some of the few things they’re doing. They’re coming for our way of life and, quite frankly folks, this needs to end,” Wulf said, pounding his desk on the House floor to emphasize his comments.

Representative J.D. Scholten, a Democrat from Sioux City, said now’s the time to act, because food security is national security. “With the average age of a farmer north of 58 years old, we’re going to see the largest amount of farmland transfer in Iowa’s history in the next 10-15 years, according to Iowa State University,” Scholten said. “Nationally, foreign ownership of American farmland is larger than equivalent of the entire state of Ohio and growing.”

The bill ensures Iowa’s attorney general has subpoena powers to investigate agland purchases and it significantly increases the penalty for any violations. Under current law, foreign entities caught owning more than 320 acres of Iowa farmland face a $2000 dollar fine. The bill raises the fine to 25% of the assessed value of the land.