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Iowa Legislature approves Reynolds' bill to strengthen limits on foreign farmland ownership

cornfield next to a road
Grant Gerlock
The Iowa House of Representatives unanimously passed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill to strengthen enforcement of limits on foreign ownership of farmland.

The Iowa House of Representatives unanimously passed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill Monday to strengthen enforcement of limits on foreign ownership of farmland, sending it to her desk for her signature.

Iowa prohibits foreign entities from owning more than 320 acres of farmland. The bill would require foreign landowners to provide more information to the state, allow the attorney general to investigate suspected wrongdoing, and significantly raise financial penalties for violations.

A new annual report on foreign landownership would be made available to top state officials but not to the public.

“American farmland should remain in American hands, and Iowa’s agricultural dominance must be protected,” Reynolds said in a statement. "Other states look to Iowa as a model, but foreign adversaries are adapting, and our laws must too.”

She said she is proud that her bill to protect Iowa’s most valuable resource had bipartisan support.

“Iowans across all 99 counties have expressed the need for tougher foreign ownership laws that strengthen enforcement, increase reporting and enhance transparency,” Reynolds said. “And today, we can say we’ve delivered.”

Rep. Derek Wulf, R-Hudson, said Chinese nationals are buying farmland and trying to steal intellectual property and practices related to agriculture. He said that needs to stop.

“We as a body have the opportunity to strengthen Iowa’s already strongest and most comprehensive laws on the books for monitoring and restricting nonresident aliens, foreign entities and foreign governments from owning one of our most precious commodities here in Iowa—our farmland,” Wulf said.

Rep. J.D. Scholten, D-Sioux City, said the bill will protect Iowa farmers and farm communities.

“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 to 15 years according to Iowa State University,” he said. “Nationally, foreign ownership of American farmland is larger than the equivalent of the entire state of Ohio and growing. I firmly believe that food security is national security.”

Scholten said he would like state lawmakers to do more to also limit corporate ownership of farmland.

The bill passed the House 95-0, and it passed the Senate last week with a 47-0 vote.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter