North Dakota House passes bill that would bar foreign governments from buying ag land in state

If it becomes law, legislation in House Bill 1135 would not affect land held by a foreign government before July 1, 2023.

North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum photo by Darren Gibbins
North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Forum photo by Darren Gibbins

BISMARCK – A bill that would bar foreign governments and businesses they control from purchasing, acquiring or holding any interest in agricultural land in North Dakota, is set to make its way to the Senate after it passed 93-0, with one absent, during a floor vote on Feb. 20.

If it becomes law, legislation in House Bill 1135 would not affect land held by a foreign government before July 1, 2023.

The bill received a 7-6 "do pass" recommendation from the House Agriculture Committee. Before the final vote, the bill was amended so the prohibition on ownership of agricultural land wouldn’t apply to land that is used for research or experimental purposes, including testing, developing or producing seeds or plants for sale or resale to farmers as seed stock. Additionally, the amendment makes an exception for the acquisition of agricultural land or an interest in agricultural land that is located within this state by a foreign business entity that is not more than 320 acres.

During floor debate, Rep. Bill Tveit, R-Hazen, opposed the amendment because he said he believes it creates a loophole “allowing up to 320 additional acres for each foreign business entity that would apply for research or experimental purposes.”

Rep. Mike Beltz, R-Hillsboro, read off testimony from Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, who shared his opposition to the legislation earlier this month. In his testimony Goehring said the bill may hinder the current and future agribusiness opportunities in North Dakota.


“Research and development of new seed and chemical products has to happen in the United States and must be done where the crops are managed, produced, registered and licensed,” Goehring wrote. “The majority of developing, testing evaluation, seed breeding and seed proliferation are performed by multi-national companies that may likely not be owned or headquartered in the United States.”

Goehring also mentioned current federal oversight in place, including the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, in his testimony.

Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot, also shared his opposition to the amendment during floor debate. He referenced the proposed Fufeng corn mill in Grand Forks, a project that was abandoned after the Air Force declared it a national security threat.

“Just a couple of weeks ago we had a deal where CFIUS did not catch China," he said. "It was actually the local Grand Forks Air Force Base that was able to flag Fufeng for a national security threat. CFIUS didn’t. So obviously we can not depend on CFIUS.”

Other amendments made to the bill provide that "foreign governmental interest in agricultural land" includes the purchase, acquisition or possession of any absolute or qualified ownership of land by a foreign government, but does not include a leasehold interest.

An additional amendment also states that a “foreign government” doesn’t include the government of the United States or its states, territories or possessions or the government of Canada or its provinces or territories.

Two other bills related to foreign entities acquiring or investing in agriculture land in North Dakota – House Bill 1356, which seeks to create a state agricultural foreign investment review board, and House Bill 1503, which would prohibit foreign ownership of real property in North Dakota – did not receive a vote on Monday.

The House has 72 bills left to vote on as of Monday evening, according to Majority Leader Rep. Mike Lefor, R-Dickinson. Lefor said the House will pick up voting again on Tuesday morning and may finish their bills sometime Wednesday. Crossover day is scheduled for Friday.


Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
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