As a rancher in Southeastern Oklahoma, Sen. Warren Hamilton has seen the impact of Oklahoma lands being purchased by foreign entities. The McCurtain Republican says it’s time the legislature puts a stop to these transactions and has filed Senate Bill 1469 to clarify that foreign ownership of Oklahoma lands is prohibited, even from business entities and trusts.
“As Oklahoma’s marijuana industry continues to grow, we’ve seen an increasing number of foreign interests come into our state and purchase our farmland for astronomical amounts of money in order to set up grows and other related businesses,” Hamilton said. “While Oklahoma law already prevents foreign land ownership, it doesn’t prevent these folks from creating businesses to purchase property. Senate Bill 1469 will put an end to this workaround of current state statute.”
According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports, Oklahoma is one of 14 states across the nation with more than one million foreign-owned acres of land, joining Texas, Arkansas and New Mexico on the list. Oklahoma is also one of 14 states that currently restricts or prohibits foreign ownership of U.S. private agricultural lands.
While Hamilton’s bill is Oklahoma-specific, foreign-interest land ownership is a nationwide issue. Legislation has been introduced into Congress that would restrict non-American citizens from investing and owning U.S. agricultural land. Data from the Congressional Research Service shows foreign persons or entities hold ownership of nearly three percent of all privately-owned agricultural land across the nation.
“This is America,” Hamilton said. “In order to own a piece of it, you should be an American. To allow any foreign entity to own a piece of America is treasonous – such foolishness may be allowed in places like California, but it should never happen here in Oklahoma. I’m confident my colleagues will see the urgent need to close the loophole in current state statute and put an end to foreign land ownership in our state.”
The measure has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee and will be eligible to be heard when the legislative session convenes on Feb. 7.