October 18, 2023
By Gerson Freitas Jr.
A unit of seed company Syngenta AG was ordered to sell 160 acres of farmland in Arkansas over its ties with China.
Syngenta, which was acquired in 2017 by China National Chemical Corp., will also face a civil penalty of $280,000 for failure to timely report its foreign ownership, according to a statement from Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin on Tuesday.
Griffin said the company has two years to divest the land. The decision was the first enforcement action taken under legislation signed into law by Republican governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier this year banning prohibited foreign entities from owning Arkansas agricultural lands.
The move is another demonstration of how rising U.S.-China tensions has reverberated across state and local politics in Middle America, sowing angst about Chinese investment. In a similar development, a $700 million corn mill project in Grand Forks, North Dakota, was scrapped earlier this year after facing growing opposition from local politicians over its Chinese owner.
The Arkansas order is a “shortsighted action that fails to account for the effects of such an action, intended or not, on the U.S. agricultural market,” Saswato Das, a Syngenta spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. The farmland targeted by the decision has been owned by Syngenta, which is headquartered in Switzerland, since 1988 and is primarily used for research and product development for the U.S. market, according to Das. “No one from China has ever directed any Syngenta executive to buy, lease, or otherwise engage in land acquisition in the United States.”
The company, which produces crop-protection ingredients along with seeds, said it has updated its filing under the Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act to reflect the change in its ultimate ownership, and filed a copy with the State of Arkansas.
© 2023 Bloomberg L.P.
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