Chinese investors own about .03 percent of America’s farmland, according to federal data. But their land purchasing is becoming a major issue as politicians at the state and federal level ramp up their fight against perceived threats from China.
In the past couple of months, lawmakers in more than two dozen states have passed or considered legislation restricting Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland.
And former President Trump has promised that if he retakes the White House, he will ban Chinese investors from buying U.S. farmland and other critical infrastructure, and force sales of their current holdings.
“China has been spending trillions of dollars to take over the crown jewels of the United States’s economy,” Trump said in a campaign video in January.
“To protect our country, we need to enact aggressive new restrictions on Chinese ownership of any vital infrastructure in the United States, including energy, technology, telecommunications, farmland, natural resources, medical supplies and other strategic national assets.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed multiple bills this month that prohibit Chinese citizens from purchasing land in the state. Last month, the North Carolina House passed a bill that would ban the governments of “foreign adversaries” from purchasing agricultural land as well as any land within 25 miles of a military installation. And the Texas Senate passed a bill last month that would ban citizens of China from buying property, with certain exceptions.
Lawmakers on the federal level are also pushing legislation to block China from buying farmland. A bipartisan group of senators have introduced a bill, known as the PASS act, that would prohibit nationals of China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from buying U.S. agricultural land or investing in American agricultural businesses.
Other legislation focuses specifically on the Chinese government. The House easily passed an amendment to the Republican’s energy bill in late March prohibiting the Chinese Communist Party from purchasing U.S. farmland or land used for renewable energy. The broader bill was dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate. National security threat?
Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland has increased fivefold over the past decade, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, from 69,000 acres in 2011 to almost 384,000 acres in 2021. That amounts to about 1 percent of the 3 percent of all U.S. farmland owned by foreign nationals.
The rate of this increase has not been even. A large portion of the increase came from a single purchase in 2013, when the Chinese company WH Group bought Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the U.S.
After that, the amount of U.S. farmland owned by Chinese investors remained largely stagnant until 2019. Chinese-owned farmland increased by more than 136 thousand acres between 2019 and 2021, but this was almost entirely from acquisitions by U.S. companies with Chinese shareholders.
The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives has sought to make China a central focus, creating a select committee on “strategic competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.”
One of the Republicans on the committee, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), has repeatedly introduced legislation to prohibit the Chinese government from buying U.S. agricultural land.
“I’ve always said that food security is literally national security,” Newhouse said at the committee’s first hearing in late February.
Former Trump national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who testified at the hearing, agreed that this issue is cause for concern. He said the Chinese government is engaging in a concerted effort to make U.S. agriculture dependent on China.
“I describe in my written testimony the three Cs of co-option, coercion and concealment,” he said. “Co-opt by trying to build dependencies from U.S. agriculture on the Chinese market. And then, hey, once your in, then to use that for coercive purposes.”
However, a 2021 analysis by the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that foreign purchases of U.S. agricultural land are not a major threat to U.S. food security.
“The United States currently produces more than enough food per capita, even after adjusting for food waste,” CSIS analysts Jamie Lutz and Caitlin Welsh wrote. “Food insecurity among U.S. families is primarily driven by poverty, not a lack of food.”
Newhouse’s press secretary, Mike Marinella, said in an interview that even though Chinese investors currently own only a small portion of American farmland, the U.S. should be concerned about what could happen in the future.
“We don’t want to have to buy our food from China,” Marinella said.
Another area of concern is Chinese land purchases near military infrastructure. In 2021, Texas lawmakers passed legislation to prohibit a company owned by a Chinese billionaire from building a wind farm on 15,000 acres of ranchland near a U.S. Air Force base.
That same year, Chinese food manufacturer Fufeng Group purchased 300 acres of farmland near Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota to build a corn mill, which the Pentagon deemed a threat to national security.
Eric Chutorash, the chief operating officer of Fufeng Group’s U.S. subsidiary, repeatedly denied that the plans posed a security risk, as the company is publicly traded and not affiliated with the Chinese government. In February, however, the Grand Forks City Council voted unanimously to block the project. Fueling anti-Asian sentiments
Some critics of efforts to limit Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland argue they could contribute to anti-Asian sentiments.
In a House Appropriations Committee hearing last year, Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) criticized an amendment from Newhouse to ban companies owned wholly or in part by the Chinese government from purchasing U.S. farmland. She said singling out China would “perpetuate already rising anti-Asian hate.”
“If the concern is about U.S. national security, other countries also should be included in this conversation,” Meng said.
Neysun Mahboubi, a research scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Contemporary China, said the hostile rhetoric toward China can be dangerous.
“[In] our American political culture, once we identify something as threatening, we’re not very good about talking about it in a nuanced and subtle way,” he said. Target removes some LGBTQ merchandise from stores after threats to workers Most Americans favor clean debt ceiling increase: poll
Mahboubi said it is important to discuss threats posed by China in a nuanced manner, especially given the high amount of trade the U.S. conducts with China.
“We’re concerned about the implications for our food security of actions that China takes, [China could become] worried about what are the implications of their food security from actions that we take, until we’re locked in this sort of downward spiral,” Mahboubi said.
“I don’t think anyone can particularly anticipate how far it’s going to go or how damaging it could be.”
Eamonn Holmes claims there was ‘total cover-up’ over Phillip Schofield’s affair with younger man
Eamonn Holmes has claimed there was a “total cover-up” over Phillip Schofield’s affair with a younger male colleague on This Morning while he was married.
Holmes, 63, who also presented on the show, has accused Schofield of “toxicity” amid the furore over the culture on the ITV daytime programme.
Host Schofield, 61, admitted last Friday to an “unwise, but not illegal” affair with a younger male colleague on the show and has now quit the commercial broadcaster and been dropped by his talent agency YMU.
Schofield on Monday hit back at critics, saying on Instagram there was “no toxicity” on the programme, adding: “I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.”
ITV said there had been an investigation in early 2020 when “rumours of a relationship between Phillip Schofield and an employee of ITV first began to circulate” but said it did not find “any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour”.
A statement from the commercial broadcaster on 27 May said: “Both parties were questioned and both categorically and repeatedly denied the rumours as did Phillip’s then agency YMU.
“In addition, ITV spoke to a number of people who worked on This Morning and were not provided with, and did not find, any evidence of a relationship beyond hearsay and rumour… He lied to people at ITV, from senior management to fellow presenters, to YMU, to the media and to others over this relationship.”
But Holmes told GB News presenter Dan Wootton: “It’s a total cover-up.
“Those in authority had to know what was going on and they thought they would dodge a bullet with this.
“Which they do and they do constantly because with Schofield talking about those who speak out against him, namely me, Amanda Holden and you [Dan Wootton], you’ll be included in the toxicity that goes on… Dr Ranj [Singh] of course as well.
“And you simply sit there and think ‘no mate, you’ve had it all your way for too long’.”
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Referring to Schofield’s comments on Instagram, Holmes said: “I think that Phillip is absolutely right about toxicity.
“But my friend, the toxicity is not with me, Dan Wootton, or anyone else, the toxicity is with you.”
Phillip Schofield and Eamonn Holmes social media statements in full
Just before 10am on Monday, Phillip Schofield posts a statement on his Instagram stories.
“Now I no longer work on @thismorning I am free to say this. I hope you have noticed that it’s the same handful of people with a grudge against me or the show who seem to have the loudest voice.
“This morning IS the best show to work on, with the best people. In all the years I worked there there was no toxicity. You can listen to those persistently loud voices if you like.
“But the thousands of guests over the years, thousands of staff and crew, hundreds of presenters and contributors all know, it IS a family of wonderful, talented, kind, hard working people.”
At 11.10am Eamonn Holmes tweets a response.
“Schofield has just put out a delusional statement. Like Holly he puts it on Insta Stories so if it goes wrong there is no record after 24 hrs.
“I’m reluctant to give the liar any more publicity but believe me Pip if u r looking for a fight , u have picked on the wrong person !”
Earlier in the day, Holmes on social media described Schofield as “delusional” and said he has “picked the wrong person… if you’re looking for a fight”.
ITV has been approached for comment by Sky News about Holmes’s claims.
GB News asked ITV’s managing director of media and entertainment, Kevin Lygo, if there was a “cover-up” and if he “protected” Schofield.
Mr Lygo told a GB News producer: “We really have no more to say.”
Holmes previously presented This Morning on Fridays with his wife Ruth Langsford.
The programme’s former resident doctor Dr Ranj Singh has hit out at the show’s “toxic” culture, saying he raised concerns about “bullying and discrimination” two years ago when he worked there and afterwards felt like he was “managed out” for whistleblowing.
Schofield quit This Morning on 20 May after more than 20 years.
Schofield originally said he was stepping down from the show because it had “become the story”, following reports of a feud between him and co-host Holly Willoughby.
It came after his brother was recently jailed for 12 years over child sex offences.
Willoughby, 41, is due to return next Monday (5 June), having gone on an early half-term holiday on 22 May.
She said that “when reports of this relationship first surfaced, I asked Phil directly if this was true and was told it was not”.
“It’s been very hurtful to now find out this was a lie,” an Instagram statement added.
Schofield has now completely resigned from ITV and been dropped by his agents.
In his statement to the Daily Mail he also admitted lying about his affair to his wife, to ITV, his agents and the media.
The controversy has raised doubts about both Willoughby’s and the show’s future, but the channel has denied reports it could be axed.
Vape advertising: Government to crack down on promotions ‘targeted at children’
Rishi Sunak has said a new government crackdown on vape marketing will stop the “unacceptable” targeting of children and young people.
Ministers have pledged to close a loophole that allows shops to offer free samples of vapes to children in England as concerns over the proportion of youngsters trying e-cigarettes mounts.
It comes days after the prime minister expressed concern about his own daughters potentially being targeted by vape marketing during an interview on ITV’s Good Morning Britain.
There will also be a review into banning retailers selling “nicotine-free” vapes to under-18s, the government said, as well as a review of the rules on issuing fines to shops that illegally sell vapes to children.
The government said such reviews could make it easier for local trading standards officials to issue on-the-spot fines and fixed penalty notices.
Ministers cited NHS figures from 2021 which revealed 9% of 11 to 15-year-olds used e-cigarettes – up from 6% in 2018.
Mr Sunak said he was “deeply concerned” about the increase in children vaping, adding he was “shocked by reports of illicit vapes containing lead getting into the hands of schoolchildren”.
“Our new illicit vape enforcement squad – backed by £3m – is on the case but clearly there is more to do,” the prime minister said.
“That is why I am taking further action today to clamp down on rogue firms who unlawfully target our children with these products.”
He added that the marketing and the illegal sales of vapes to children are “completely unacceptable” and that he will do everything in his power to “end this practice for good”.
Meanwhile, Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty called the decision to close the loophole a “very welcome step”.
He said: “Whilst vaping can be an effective quitting tool for smokers, it is important that non-smokers are not encouraged to start vaping.
“There has been a particularly worrying rise in the number of children using vapes, with companies clearly marketing these products at children using colours, flavours and cheap disposable options.
“Closing the loophole that allows companies to give out free samples of vaping products to under-18s is a very welcome step in tackling some of the harms caused by the vaping industry.”
He added: “We should continue to encourage smokers to swap to vaping as the lesser risk, whilst preventing the marketing and sale of vapes to children.”
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The health risks of vaping will now also be included in Relatonships, Sex and Health Education lessons in schools as part of the ongoing government review of the curriculum.
And the crackdown will also see dedicated police school liaison officers work to keep illegal vapes out of schools.
Health minister Neil O’Brien described any marketing of vaping products to children as “shameful”.
He said the government would “review the rules on issuing on-the-spot fines to shops that break the law by selling vapes to underage youngsters, and look into banning the sale of nicotine-free vapes to under-18s – which we know can be a gateway to using nicotine products”.
British man, 26, dies in Greece after being ‘struck by lightning while paddleboarding’
A British man has died after he was reportedly hit by lightning while paddleboarding in Greece.
The unnamed 26-year-old was in the sea during a thunderstorm in Agia Agathi, Rhodes, as his girlfriend filmed him from the beach, according to local media.
Some reports said he had been swimming at the time, rather than paddleboarding.
An investigation is now under way into the incident, which is believed to have happened shortly before 2pm on Monday local time (12pm UK time).
Greek newspaper Rodiaki reported that lightning struck the water near the paddleboarder, causing him to fall in the sea injured.
The newspaper said a passer-by, named as a Brazilian footballer who plays for a local side, waded into the sea to pull the man back to shore.
Medics then took him to a nearby hospital before he was declared dead, the publication added.
The Port Authority of Rhodes confirmed the man’s age and that he was a British national but would give no further information.
A spokesperson said: “This is an active case so we cannot give more details at the moment.”
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Rhodes and are in contact with local authorities.”
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According to the swimming website oceanswims.com, when lightning strikes water the electric charge doesn’t penetrate deep into the water, but rather, it spreads across the surface, dispersing horizontally.
“This electric charge can travel as little as 10m or as much as 100m or more, depending on the power of the lightning bolt itself,” it added.
“From a swimmers’ point of view, this means the bolt of lightning doesn’t have to hit you directly for it to cause harm.”
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