“Since the start of the pandemic, I have witnessed an increase in agricultural land sales purchased by private interests. The $1 billion transaction near the air force base is extremely concerning, especially since California had the ability to be proactive by passing Senate Bill 1084 in 2022 and Senate Bill 224 this legislative session.”
Both bills would have increased transparency on agricultural land transactions, enhanced our understanding on the present status of foreign ownership of agricultural land, and put Californians in control of their food supply chain by preventing foreign governments from purchasing agricultural land. The bills would also have mandated annual reporting by the California Office of Emergency Services on foreign ownership of California’s agricultural land, water rights, desalination plants, and energy facilities.
In addition to bipartisan and bicameral legislative efforts, Senator Hurtado last year requested the United States Department of Justice to investigate possible water rights abuses. The request came in response to the increase of agricultural land purchases across western states by hedge funds to help determine whether anti-competitive practices were occurring and the potential impact to our water security.
“An investment group strategically obscuring its ownership, giving conflicting accounts on its intentions near sensitive military sites, and refusing to engage with local community leaders deserves greater scrutiny in advance of its agricultural land purchases. At the Federal level, we need continued risk assessment by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. At the state level, not only do we need legislation like Senate Bill 224, but we also need to update our regulations and disclosures of any lobbying done on behalf of a foreign interest. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 224 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee this year, and Governor Newsom vetoed Senate Bill 1084 in 2022.”