PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Time is running out on the governor’s plan for a special committee to review future purchases of agricultural land in South Dakota by foreign interests.
Her legislation, a further-amended version of SB-185, failed in the state Senate on Tuesday by a 11-23 vote.
The bill’s prime sponsor, Republican Sen. Erin Tobin, gave notice of her intent to reconsider. That would need to come Wednesday to meet the Legislature’s crossover-day deadline for bills to clear their first chamber.
Republican Sen. John Wiik wanted senators to approve it Tuesday and send it across the Capitol to the House of Representatives for further improvements. “The bill isn’t perfect, but the idea is,” he said. “I trust the House to make it better.”
Governor Kristi Noem proposed a committee, to be appointed by the governor, to review foreign purchases of ag land. The committee would make recommendations to the governor, who would have the final say.
Nearly all of South Dakota’s major agricultural groups came out against her plan at a Senate hearing last week.
The testimony from the governor’s side focused on the threat of China spying on U.S. interests by buying land near sensitive US installations. They said Ellsworth Air Force Base in western South Dakota could be a possible target.
Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff asked whether the bill was “prime-time ready.” She said it could discourage foreign interests from opening or expanding dairy operations in South Dakota.
Republican Sen. David Wheeler pointed to the “huge” power the governor would have to block foreign purchases — without any standards for those decisions. He said the bill also didn’t provide an opportunity for judicial review of a governor’s decision. “I didn’t see it in there. I don’t know,” he said.
Tobin in rebuttal said, “Someone has to make that final decision.” She added, “There is a need to step in — and step up.”