LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A company has been ordered to divest its Arkansas land following a state law passed in the last legislative session banning prohibited foreign parties from owning agricultural land in Arkansas.
According to state officials, Syngenta Seeds, located in Craighead County, is owned by China’s government and violated the state law.
Attorney General Tim Griffin and Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a press conference Tuesday announcing the order to give up its land. Griffin also said he is imposing the maximum $280,000 fine under Arkansas law, after the company also failed to meet its deadline to disclose ownership of the land.
Sanders and Department of Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward spoke on the importance of agricultural land in Arkansas, given it is the state’s top industry.
The governor said foreign enemy countries, specifically China, are targeting the industry and putting farmers at risk, including those here in Arkansas.
Syngenta Seeds is an agriculture-chemical company that takes up 160 acres in northeast Arkansas, used mainly for seed research, according to Sanders.
“Seeds are technology,” Sanders said. “Chinese-owned state corps filter that technology back to their homeland, stealing American research and telling our enemies how to target American farms.”
Sanders said the company that owns Syngenta is ChemChina. ChemChina is on the Department of Defense’s list of Chinese military companies posing a clear threat to our national security and local farmers, Griffin said.
“The idea that the Chinese government would care about non-military assets is exactly what they’ve demonstrated over the last few decades,” the attorney general said.
Griffin told press he is not only imposing the maximum fine, but prepared to take legal action if the company does not pay it by the 30-day deadline. He said the state can, if needed, force the company out of Arkansas.
When it comes to the law that allows for this, only one lawmaker voted against it during the last legislative session. That Democratic state representative declined to comment on the announcement Tuesday.
Syngenta Seeds provided a statement in response to the order:
“The order for Syngenta to divest itself of 160 acres of agricultural land in Craighead County, which the company has owned since 1988, is a shortsighted action that fails to account for the effects of such an action, intended or not, on the U.S. agricultural market,” from the statement, which continued: “Our people in Arkansas are Americans led by Americans who care deeply about serving Arkansas farmers. This action hurts Arkansas farmers more than anyone else.”
The company’s statement went on to explain that China has never directed its actions and continued to emphasize its work on behalf of American farmers.
“Syngenta’s work in the U.S. – including in Arkansas – continues to benefit American farmers, strengthens American agriculture, and makes the U.S. a more innovative and competitive participant in the global agricultural marketplace.”
Sanders also told reporters Tuesday the state is not prepared to publicly announce any other state companies being looked into for possible foreign ownership, though the effort to bring such ownership to an end is not over.