Friday, June 14, 2013

Missouri passed bill to allow foreign land ownership, apparently to clear way for sale of Smithfield

"Last-minute legislative maneuvers in Missouri may remove one potential legal obstacle to Shuanghui International Holdings' proposed $4.7 billion purchase of Smithfield Foods Inc, which would be China's largest purchase to date of a U.S. company," report Lisa Baertlein and P.J. Huffstutter of Reuters

State Rep. Casey Guernsey, whose rural county in northern Missouri has Smithfield and its pork-producing subsidiaries as its largest taxpayers, passed a bill that would allow 1 percent of the state's agricultural lands to be in foreign ownership, Baertlein and Huffstutter report. "Missouri and at least seven other U.S. states -- Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wisconsin -- have oft-overlooked laws that prohibit foreign ownership of agricultural land."

The legislation was filed at the behest of foreign interests, "who already effectively hold about 91,000 acres out of the state's estimated 29.1 million farmland acres and wanted the laws changed," Reuters reports. Guernsey's bill and a companion measure "were passed by the legislature on the last day of its session, less than two weeks before the Smithfield deal was announced on May 29." Gov. Jay Nixon still needs to sign the bill, and the state's Agriculture Department has to approve the land sales. (Read more)

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