Foreigners have a hand in SD ag, despite old state law and new push to blacklist countries


By Joshua Haiar, SDPB Radio (SD)

August 2, 2022


Recent complaints by South Dakota politicians about foreign investments in U.S. agriculture are a case of political deja vu.


A similar mood swept over South Dakota politicians 43 years ago, when the Legislature passed a law intended to prevent large purchases of farm or ranch land by foreign interests.


Despite the existence of that state law, foreign individuals or entities own a meatpacking plant in the state and more than 350,000 acres of South Dakota farm land.


But now there's a political reaction to recent news of acquisitions elsewhere, like in North Dakota, where a Chinese company bought 300 acres of land near an Air Force base.


In response, U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, is co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit people acting on behalf of China, North Korea, Iran and Russia from carrying out any merger, acquisition or takeover resulting in control of a U.S. agricultural company.


“China’s efforts to influence American agriculture threatens U.S. security — this bill is common sense,” Johnson said in a statement.


Gov. Kristi Noem recently echoed that sentiment in a tweet, saying, “My dad always told me, ‘Never sell the land, Kristi. God’s not making any more of it.’ Supporting American farmers means keeping Chinese businesses from owning our American farms.”


Yet, a Chinese firm already owns the state's largest meatpacking plant.


The Chinese company WH Foods acquired Smithfield Foods in 2013 for nearly $5 billion. Smithfield has a pork processing plant in Sioux Falls that employs nearly 4,000 workers.


Johnson's legislation isn’t retroactive, so it wouldn’t impact Smithfield. Noem has yet to propose any legislation.


The issue isn't new ...


Land-use examples ...


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