Seed Producer Pays $280,000 Fine to Arkansas Over Failure to Report Chinese Regime Ownership

Bill Pan
By Bill Pan
November 10, 2023US News
Seed Producer Pays $280,000 Fine to Arkansas Over Failure to Report Chinese Regime Ownership
The Arkansas State flag and U.S. flag fly in front of the State Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., on Dec. 1, 2022. (Janice Hisle/The Epoch Times)

A seed producer has paid a $280,000 fine to the state of Arkansas for failing to report that the Chinese regime owns a stake in the company, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin said on Thursday.

Syngenta Seeds LLC, a Switzerland-headquartered producer of genetically modified crop seeds, owns about 160 acres of farmland in Arkansas’ Craighead County through a subsidiary, Northrup King Seed Co., according to the attorney general’s office.

In 2015, agrochemical giant Monsanto made a bid to purchase Syngenta, but that bid fell through. The company was then approached by state-owned China National Chemical Corporation, also known as ChemChina, and a purchase was finalized in 2017. Five years later, the U.S. Department of Defense added ChemChina to its list of “Chinese military companies” operating in the United States.

Under a 2021 state law, all foreign persons who acquire an interest in agriculture in Arkansas must report their ownership stake to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. While Syngenta did disclose that information to the state, it failed to do so in a timely manner.

“Because Syngenta is foreign owned—ultimately by the Chinese Communist Party—it was required to report its ownership of agricultural land to the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture,” said Mr. Griffin in a press release. “It failed to timely do so—filing the report well after the deadline.”

In October, Mr. Griffin’s office ordered Syngenta to pay a civil penalty of $280,000 for violating the disclosure law. That amount is 25 percent of the fair market value of the 160 acres of farmland the company owned in Arkansas.

Citing a more recent state law, which bans “prohibited foreign-party-controlled business”—including CCP-affiliated enterprises like ChemChina—from owning agricultural land in Arkansas, Mr. Griffin also ordered that Syngenta sell all of its the Arkansas land within two years.

“Now Syngenta must divest itself of the land it owns in Craighead County,” he said. “This serves as a warning to all other Chinese state-owned companies operating in Arkansas—I am investigating these types of properties throughout the state and will exercise all powers afforded to my office under the law.

“As a 27-year Army officer, I can state unequivocally that our concerns over Chinese interests in America’s strategic assets are well-founded and demand action,” he added.

On Friday, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders shared on Instagram a picture of a $280,000 check paid to the state government by Syngenta.

“I was the first governor to kick China off our farmland,” the Republican governor wrote. “And Arkansas just received a check for $280,000 from the CCP-owned company we kicked out to pay the fine for violating state law.”

After being ordered to divest its land holding, Syngenta Seeds President Eric Boeck wrote published an opinion piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, saying that the company’s land in the Diamond State “is used for research, development, regulatory trials, and production to meet the needs of American farmers and to drive competition and innovation within the U.S. agricultural market.”

“We were disappointed by this shortsighted public ultimatum that doesn’t have the American farmers, or independent seed companies we serve, best interests at heart,” Mr. Boeck wrote. Specifically, he argued that Syngenta’s departure would limit Arkansas farmers’ options, raise their expenses, and make them less competitive with other states.

“The suggestion that China is using Syngenta to purchase land or conduct operations in the U.S. for any purpose other than supporting the company’s commercial business in North America is simply false,” he added. “Since Syngenta has had Chinese ownership, the company has purchased only an additional 200 agricultural acres–none of them in Arkansas.”

According to Mr. Boeck, his company owns approximately 1,500 acres of agricultural land across the United States. “All Syngenta land holdings have been examined by the U.S. government, through two administrations, as Syngenta was transitioning to ChemChina ownership,” he said.

From The Epoch Times

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