In response to recent purchases by foreign entities that spooked locals in Oklahoma, U.S. Sens. James Lankford (R-OK) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK) introduced a bill this week to increase oversight and transparency of purchases of U.S. agricultural land.
The Security and Oversight of International Landholdings (SOIL) Act would require the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) to review agriculture real estate purchases by specific foreign entities, ban federal assistance for those foreign-held real estate holdings and expand disclosure requirements related to land purchases made by any foreign entities.
The senators promoted the move as less about cracking down on legal purchases and more about rooting out criminal misuse. However, Lankford also accused the state’s legalized medical marijuana trade of luring transnational criminal organizations.
“The transnational criminal organizations have partnered with Chinese nationals to buy land and businesses throughout Oklahoma,” Lankford said. “This is a national security issue and a human rights issue. We need to know who is buying our land, how they are using it, and if any criminal activity is occurring.”
Drug trafficking and overdoses have occurred in Oklahoma over recent years, according to the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics (OBN), which lent its support to the SOIL Act. However, no data has tied those figures to the legal marijuana trade. Regardless, the SOIL Act seeks to empower law enforcement to more readily identify domestic and international criminals and thus prevent them from fraudulently obtaining licenses and selling to black markets.
“Over time, foreign investors, including international criminal entities who are trafficking illegal drugs, have bought up large amounts of United States agricultural farmland – putting Oklahomans and Americans across the U.S. at risk,” Inhofe said. “There is no question that caution must be taken when we consider who buys American land and what they plan to do with it. We need to be vigilant in implementing safeguards, like the Security and Oversight of International Landholdings (SOIL) Act, in order for our nation to maintain security, uphold human rights and increase transparency.”
In addition to the OBN, the SOIL was also backed by the nonprofit America First Policy Institute and the conservative policy advocacy organization Heritage Action for America.