Kemp signs bill to ban ‘foreign adversaries’ from owning agricultural land

(The Center Square) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a series of bills mainly focused on the state’s agriculture sector, including a measure that bans “foreign adversaries” from owning property near a military base.

“As we continue to grow this state, we will realize that agriculture is going to continue to be the backbone of this economy,” Kemp, a Republican, said during a bill signing ceremony at the Lowndes County Civic Center in Valdosta. “And that’s why we’re grateful for all our farming families and for what they do, and we’ll continue to work every day to ensure that they are well-equipped to meet the challenges that they face.”

Senate Bill 420 would prohibit nonresident aliens from purchasing agricultural land within a 10-mile radius of a military installation. However, they can retain the land if they terminate their nonresident alien status.

Proponents have said they crafted the measure in response to a Department of Agriculture report that found that China had roughly 384,000 acres of agricultural land across the country, a 30% increase from 2019 to 2020.

“We cannot allow foreign adversaries to control something as critical to our survival as our food supply,” the governor said. “…Rest assured, Georgia will do everything in our power to prevent bad actors from threatening our national security.”

SB 465, known as “Austin’s Law,” targets the sale and distribution of substances such as fentanyl and creates a new criminal offense of aggravated involuntary manslaughter, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years in prison.

“Austin’s Law will help save the lives of Georgians by fighting back against the criminals that traffic these deadly substances,” Lt. Governor Burt Jones said in a statement.

“Actions have consequences, and in Georgia traffickers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Jones added. “… Today’s signing of Austin’s Law marks a pivotal moment in our efforts to help end this deadly epidemic.”

Kemp also signed SB 340, which adds diesel exhaust fluid to the Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption program; SB 494, which amends the state’s regulation of hemp; and SB 436, which expands the definition of a farm-use vehicle and adds a definition for “operator.”

The governor also signed House Bill 827, which increases the penalty for livestock theft and gives the Georgia Department of Agriculture the power to enforce some criminal statutes; HB 455, which adds privacy protections for professional programs addressing career fatigue and wellness in healthcare professionals; HB 1335, which adjusts staffing requirements in personal care homes assisting living communities and memory care centers, and HB 906 adds a superior court judge to the Tifton Judicial Circuit.