In April of 2018, we first reported that China was buying up U.S. farmland at an alarming rate — from investments of $300 million annually in 2009 to more than $3 billion per year in 2016. By the end of that year, China owned more than 1300 U.S. agricultural, forestry and fishery enterprises in the United States.
We weren’t the only ones who noticed. This week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation banning the sale of Florida lands to Chinese citizens or the government in all but the most limited of cases.
But the Chinese weren’t the only ones on the chopping block.
This week’s legislation is the follow-up to actions the governor took last fall, challenging the Florida Legislature to implement new rules and regulations, the first of which DeSantis signed this week.
Cuba, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria And Venezuela Also On The List
Last September, in one fell swoop, DeSantis announced executive action and legislative proposals to “address threats posed by the Communist Party of China and other hostile foreign powers” in cyberspace, real estate, and academia. These measures were designed to “curtail the nefarious intentions of all seven countries on Florida’s list of countries of concern,” making it more difficult for China, Cuba, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Syria, or Venezuela to engage in espionage or influence operations within Florida’s borders and preventing purchases of agricultural land and lands surrounding military bases by those governments or their agents. Details on that announcement can be found here.
“From server farms to farmland, the Communist Party of China has been worming its way into our nation’s data storage systems and buying up tracts of land near sensitive national security sites,” said DeSantis at the time. “By prohibiting the purchase of lands, state contracts with Chinese technology firms, and the infiltration of CCP-affiliated groups such as Confucius Institutes, Florida is leading the way to protect our nation from international foes.”
This week, after signing several bills stemming from that proposal, DeSantis blocked all but private citizens from hostile nations on tourist visas from buying land in Florida — and even then only in small tracts far away from critical installations like military bases.
“Florida is taking action to stand against the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — the Chinese Communist Party,” said DeSantis. “I’m proud to sign this legislation to stop the purchase of our farmland and land near our military bases and critical infrastructure by Chinese agents, to stop sensitive digital data from being stored in China, and to stop CCP influence in our education system from grade school to grad school. We are following through on our commitment to crack down on Communist China.”
“Food Security Is National Security”
“Food security is national security, and we have a responsibility to ensure Floridians have access to a safe, affordable, and abundant food supply,” said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Wilton Simpson. “China and other hostile foreign nations control hundreds of thousands of acres of critical agricultural lands in the U.S., leaving our food supply and our national security interests at risk. Restricting China and other hostile foreign nations from controlling Florida’s agricultural land and lands near critical infrastructure facilities protects our state, provides long-term stability, and preserves our economic freedom. This bill is long overdue, and I thank Governor Ron DeSantis, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, House Speaker Paul Renner, Senator Jay Collins, and Representative David Borrero for their leadership on this issue and their commitment to protecting Florida and our security interests.”
SB 264, Interests of Foreign Countries, restricts governmental entities from contracting with foreign countries and entities of concern and restricts conveyances of agricultural lands and other interests in real property to foreign principals, the People’s Republic of China, and other entities and persons that are affiliated with them. It also amends certain electronic health record statutes to ensure that health records are physically stored in the continental U.S., U.S. territories, or Canada.
SB 846, Agreements of Educational Entities with Foreign Entities, prohibits state colleges and universities and their employees and representatives from soliciting or accepting any gift in their official capacities from a college or university based in a foreign country of concern. It also prohibits state colleges and universities from accepting any grant from or participating in any agreement or partnership with any college or university based in a foreign country of concern. A state college or university may only participate in a partnership or agreement with a college or university based in a foreign country of concern if authorized by the Board of Governors or the State Board of Education. The bill also prohibits the ownership or operation of any private school participating in the state’s school choice scholarship program by a person or entity domiciled in, owned by, or in any way controlled by a foreign country of concern.
SB 258 requires the Department of Management Services to create a list of prohibited applications owned by a foreign principal or foreign countries of concern, including China, which present a cybersecurity and data privacy risk. The bill requires government and educational institution to block access to prohibited applications on all government servers and devices in Florida and requires public employers to retain the ability to remotely wipe and uninstall these dangerous applications from government issued devices.
“The Chinese Communist Party cheats on trade, steals our intellectual property, and produces deadly drugs like fentanyl that are pouring into our southern border,” said Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez. “Governor DeSantis’ announcements are not only critical to protecting American interests and Florida farmlands but also to maintaining our national security. Florida will never kowtow to the oppressive regime of China.”