A bipartisan bill in the state Legislature would prohibit foreign governments from buying California agricultural land.
Senate Bill 224 would also require the state to annually track — and publish — a report on foreign ownership of California resources. Foreign investors own 2.8% of California farmland, according to a 2021 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, though they would be allowed to keep that land if the measure passes.
The bill's author is Senator Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat representing the Bakersfield area. She says the intent is to put California in control of its food supply chain.
“The agricultural land in California that produces one-third of our country’s vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts is invaluable to our state’s GDP,” Hurtado said in a prepared release. “This bill is a central part of how we get the data needed to have a better understanding of the role foreign owned governments may play in our energy and water facilities and agricultural land.”
Dennis Albiani is with the California Seed Association, which opposes the bill. He says the measure could have unintended consequences.
"One of the concerns is, if we stop allowing those investments into California, will it just stop with investments or will it spread to the actual commodities won't be able to be sold, or there'll be retaliatory trade efforts," Albiani said.
This isn’t the first time an iteration of this measure has made its way through California’s Legislature. In 2022, the Food and Farm Security Act — also authored by Hurtado — passed in both the Assembly and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom.
In a veto letter, Newsom said that data reporting would “create new and arduous responsibilities” for the state agency initially identified in the measure, the California Department of Food and Agriculture. A different state agency, the Office of Emergency Services, was identified for the task in the new version of the bill.
The bill has passed the Senate Agriculture Committee and next heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
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