CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – A new bill in the North Carolina House aims to cut foreign adversaries out of opportunities to own farmland in the Tar Heel State.
N.C. Farmland and Military Protection Act bans foreign adversary governments such as Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and Cuba from purchasing any piece of farmland or land within a 25-mile radius of a military bases, installations, or airports in the state.
“One of the things we had to do is figure out how do we thread the needle here, where we’re not stopping good global commerce,” said Rep. Jeff Zenger (R), N.C. General Assembly. “At the same time, protecting our assets, and you know, having a secure food supply is vital.”
Zenger, one of the sponsors of House Bill 463, made it clear the ban will only be for those countries’ governments, not individual citizens.
President of the N.C. Farm Bureau, Shawn Harding, supports the bill.
“I don’t think it’s a big issue right now, but I think this is a let’s get ahead of an issue that may be coming,” Harding said.
Harding’s main reason for supporting the bill is that it would further protect N.C.’s food supply.
“I can understand people looking at the United States as a breadbasket for the world because we’ve been that for many, for many years,” Harding continued. “I think we all want to be good trading partners with the world. But trading is different than not having ownership.”
Lisa Abernathy, a third-generation farmer in Gastonia, understands the hardships of farming, most of which have been exacerbated in recent years with rising costs.
“I learned to drive the tractor out in the fields; I still have the same tractor from the 70s. It’s older than I am,” Abernathy said. “[The farm] has so many memories for me that I would never want to sell. But it’s very, very hard because it costs so much money to make it work.”
Though Abernathy would never want to sell her family’s farm if it became too expensive to maintain, she would like the option to sell the farm for a reasonable price, even if it happened to be coming from a foreign government.
“If I sold all this land, can you imagine the tax burden that’s going to put on me?” Abernathy said. “I’m going to have to sell it to whoever the highest bidder is.”
Hypothetical situations aside, Abernathy wants N.C. farmers to be put first and taken care of, especially considering that they contribute to our state’s economy and way of life.
House Bill 463 has garnered support from both sides of the aisle.
It’s sponsored by republicans but has many democratic cosponsors, including Mecklenburg County Representative Kelly Alexander.