The Alabama Legislature is considering a measure that would ban foreign ownership of Alabama’s farm and timberland to American citizens and alien residents of this country.

Senate Bill 14 is sponsored by State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence).

Melson told 1819 News on Wednesday that what he favors is reciprocal agreements. A citizen of a foreign country should not be able to purchase land in Alabama if an American can’t do the same in his country.

“You can’t buy land in Canada,” Melson said. “You can’t buy land in Brazil. In Mexico, you can’t own within thirty miles of the ocean or sixty miles of the border.”

According to the synopsis, “Existing law provides that an alien, whether resident or nonresident, may own, hold, or dispose of real property with the same rights as a native citizen. This bill would restrict ownership of agricultural land to United States citizens and resident aliens only, subject to certain limited exceptions. This bill would further provide a civil penalty for violation of certain registration requirements.”

“Capitalism is the greatest system in the world until you make deals with the devil,” Melson said.

Other states have considered similar legislation due to concerns about corporations in foreign countries, particularly China, purchasing tracts of American forest and farmland.

Critics say that the legislation infringes on property rights because it is telling property owners that they cannot sell to a foreign person or corporation.

According to the fiscal note, “Senate Bill 14 as introduced would restrict ownership of agricultural land to United States citizens and resident aliens only and would require nonresident aliens, and foreign businesses, agents, trustees, and fiduciaries that own an interest in agricultural land to register with the Secretary of State. In addition, this bill requires agricultural land acquired in violation of the provisions of this bill to be escheated to the state and sold with the proceeds of the sale used to pay: (1) court costs; (2) the actual cost paid for the property to the person divested of the property; and (3) to the county or counties in which the land is located, any proceeds remaining after payment of court costs and to the person divested of the property. In addition, this bill could increase receipts to the State General Fund by an undetermined amount dependent upon the number of, and amount of, civil penalties imposed and collected by the Secretary of State, in an amount not to exceed $2,000 per offense, for failing to timely register with the Secretary of State.”

SB14 has been assigned to the Senate Agriculture and Forestry Committee and is awaiting action there. Forestry and Agriculture is chaired by State Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield).

Thursday was day nine of the 2022 Alabama Regular Legislative Session. The legislature is limited to no more than 30 legislative days in a 120-calendar day regular session.

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