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Senate debates bill banning people from 4 countries from buying land in SC

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 2021 that foreign businesses and non-U.S. citizens held an interest in nearly 41 million acres of land.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Increasing tensions between the U.S. and other countries like China are bringing calls from state lawmakers to limit or block foreign investments in land in South Carolina. 

On Wednesday, Senators debated a measure that bans companies owned by foreign adversary countries from buying or controlling land in the state.

The current list of foreign adversaries recognized by the U.S. includes China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

“We’re trying to protect South Carolina from too much interest from those adversaries," said Sen. Shane Massey. 

Massey said he was motivated to file the bill following an announcement from a Chinese Bio-Medical Company that it had agreed to pay $28 million for 500 acres in McCormick County.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in 2021, Foreign businesses and non-U.S. citizens held an interest in nearly 41 million acres of land.

“We’re only talking about five countries," said Massey. "These countries on this list have earned additional scrutiny.”

Permanent green-card-holding residents and those with dual citizenship could buy up to five acres for a home or five properties totaling up to 25 acres. Once an immigrant becomes a U.S. citizen, the restrictions would no longer apply to them.

The bill would not apply to businesses established before Dec. 31, 2022. Existing companies would be allowed to expand under approval from the Department of Commerce and the Governor. 

Critics say the proposal is unnecessary and could stifle business in the state. 

“This is just a waste of time. This is a bumper sticker," said Sen. Dick Harpootlian. "This is not legislation that is going to improve the quality of life for anyone in this state." 

At least 11 states also are considering similar legislation. 

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