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Georgia bill would bar non-citizens from buying agricultural land

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(The Center Square) — The Georgia House has passed a measure prohibiting non-citizens, non-legal residents or agents of foreign governments designated as foreign adversaries from buying agricultural land in the state.

Senate Bill 420, which returns to the state Senate to consider changes made by House lawmakers, would also prohibit nonresident aliens from purchasing agricultural land within a 10-mile radius of a military installation.

However, they can retain the land if they terminate their nonresident alien status. Under the legislation, agricultural land nonresident aliens acquire through inheritance must be disposed of within one year of acquisition but have two years if they acquire the land through debt collection or lien enforcement.

Nonresident aliens who own or have an interest in agricultural land within a ten-mile radius of a military installation as of June 30 must dispose of it by June 30, 2027.

If Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signs the measure into law, anyone who violates it would face a felony charge, punishable by a fine of up to $15,000 and between one and two years in prison.

“I represent Henry County, which holds the second largest amount of farmland that has been bought by Chinese entities in the State of Georgia, and constituents of mine of all backgrounds and both political parties have made it abundantly clear that they are sick and tired of foreign adversaries buying up our farmland and over developing our communities,” state Rep. Lauren Daniel, R-Locust Grove, said in a statement. “I was proud to vote for this measure, and I am excited to see this bill pass as we continue to work toward protecting Georgia’s agricultural land throughout the state and support our number one industry.”

However, state Rep. Michelle Au, D-Johns Creek, a second-generation Chinese-American, said that while “national security and defense against hostile foreign regimes is a vital goal that I and everyone in this body should prioritize,” the measure “is a bad bill that does not serve that goal.”

“When you’re a legislator who looks like me and who has the cultural background that I do, no amount of parsing the legal or the social nuance of such bills will prevent the suspicion that I get and the accusations I will draw for being a legislator who looks like me speaking against it,” Au said.

“I love this country. I love this state, and for that reason, I ask you to vote no on SB 420. There is a way to serve these goals of protecting our national security without writing blatantly discriminatory bills,” Au added. “And there’s certainly a better way to serve that goal without trumpeting around the world that Georgia is the No. 1 place to live, work and raise a family but then turns to certain Georgians from certain countries and backgrounds and says, ‘except not for you."”