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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.”

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BAFTA Games Awards: Baldur’s Gate 3 is the big winner, scooping five prizes

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BAFTA Games Awards: Baldur's Gate 3 is the big winner, scooping five prizes

Baldur’s Gate 3 was the big winner at this year’s BAFTA Games Awards, taking home five prizes including the prestigious best game.

It also won BAFTAs for music, narrative, and performer in a supporting role for Andrew Wincott, along with the EE players’ choice award, which is voted for by the public.

The Dungeons and Dragons-based game faced strong competition from Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Alan Wake 2 and indie hit Dave the Diver.

(L-R) Sarah Baylus, Swen Vincke and David Walgrave who won the best game award for Baldur's Gate 3
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(L-R) Sarah Baylus, Swen Vincke and David Walgrave who won the best game award for Baldur’s Gate 3

Alan Wake 2 won two BAFTAs for artistic achievement and audio achievement, while Super Mario Bros. Wonder also scooped two for family and multiplayer.

Awards host Phil Wang told Sky News: “There are some real legends of gaming here. Sam Lake, you know? I played as Sam Lake, I used to play so much Max Payne and now he’s here, sipping a mimosa.”

Phil Wang hosts the BAFTA Games Awards 2024 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 11 April. Pic: BAFTA
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Phil Wang hosted the ceremony. Pic: BAFTA


Sam Lake’s smash hit, Alan Wake 2, took him 13 years to create and over that time, it changed dramatically.

“There is very little from the original concept of Alan Wake 2 that still exists in what we have made today,” Mr Lake said.

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Games news was mostly just seen “on the business pages”, he said but “bit by bit, gaming has worked its way into culture”.

Alan Wake 2 creator Sam Lake attends the BAFTA Games Awards 2024. Pic: BAFTA
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Alan Wake 2 creator Sam Lake attends the BAFTA Games Awards. Pic: BAFTA

One of the Baldur’s Gate 3 writers Lawrence Schick told Sky News how proud he was to work for the team after winning the narrative award.

He was joined at the event at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall by a huge team, including narrator Amelia Tyler.

“[Baldur’s Gate 3] allows people to explore aspects of themselves in the game that they’ve never been able to explore,” he said.

“There are so many stories of players who have found out new things about themselves, about their sexuality, about their gender identity, about who they love or how they love them, from this game.”

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Hogwarts Legacy, the Harry Potter game played by more than 22 million people, lost in both categories it was nominated for, including the best family game section, and best animation – which was won by Hi-Fi Rush.

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Dave the Diver, the indie game where you play as a diver catching fish and working in a sushi restaurant, picked up one award for game design.

Best British game went to Viewfinder from Scottish-based studio Sad Owl, which also won a BAFTA for new intellectual property.

The creators of Dead Island 2, from Nottingham-based Dambuster Studios, were happy to be nominated for best British game.

“We tend to keep ourselves to ourselves, keep our heads down and get the work done so to get to the end of it all and get this [nomination] is really exciting.”

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OJ Simpson murder trial: How the dramatic court case unfolded

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OJ Simpson murder trial: How the dramatic court case unfolded

Former American footballer and actor OJ Simpson, who has died of cancer, will be remembered most for his role at the centre of the “trial of the century”.

Accused of double murder, his case captured the attention of the US until it came to a dramatic end in late 1995.

Here’s a look back at how that trial unfolded.

12 June 1994

Simpson‘s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson was found dead in front of her home in Los Angeles with her friend Ronald Goldman, who was a waiter at a restaurant where she had just dined.

The pair had been stabbed to death outside her home in the neighbourhood of Brentwood.

Read more:
OJ Simpson has died at the age of 76, his family says

OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown
Pic:MediaPunch/AP
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OJ Simpson and Nicole Brown. Pic:MediaPunch/AP

17 June 1994

After the bodies were found, suspicion quickly fell on Simpson, who had been married to Nicole for seven years until their divorce became final on 15 October 1992, little more than 18 months before her death.

Simpson had been ordered by prosecutors to surrender, but on this day, carrying a passport and a disguise, he instead fled, with friend and former team-mate Al Cowlings in a white Ford Bronco.

A white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings and carrying OJ Simpson, being trailed by Los Angeles police on 17 June , 1994. Pic: AP
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OJ Simpson trailed by Los Angeles police on 17 June 1994. Pic: AP

The vehicle was soon spotted on a California freeway and pursued by police in a car chase that was televised live across the country and watched by an estimated 95 million viewers.

Cowlings, in a phone call to police, said Simpson was lying in the back seat of the car holding a gun to his own head. After eventually driving to his Brentwood home he was persuaded to surrender.

Sky News’ Steve Bennedik recalls how Simpson’s trial was covered

It was the first few weeks of 1995 when Sky News’ live coverage of the OJ Simpson court case got under way. Each evening we showed the trial and invited questions. In those days, the main form of correspondence was by letter.

But there was also a new electronic method emerging, called email. And the first of these had the simple, but deflating, sentence: “Which one is OJ?”

We asked ourselves: Is our audience ready to follow the story of a very American tragedy unfold on British TV? We decided to stick with it.

In contrast, OJ Simpson was a household name in the US. So much more than an ex-football star. But the shock of this icon being arrested for murder, the bizarre Bronco highway chase, the high-profile celebrity defence team, and ultimately the “did he do it?” question had universal attraction.

Although the case stuttered through until October, the weak Judge Lance Ito was obsequious to lawyers’ demands for delays, but the interest among Sky News viewers surged and remained undimmed.

As the court camera panned to the state of California seal, signalling another adjournment, we and no doubt the viewer sighed.

More behind-the-scenes legal wrangling, but we had an ace up our sleeve – Professor Gary Solis. Gary is a Vietnam veteran, former military judge advocate, with alma maters including George Washington University and the London School of Economics.

At the time, he was in London and ready to give up his evenings. He calmly steered our presenters, Laurie and Vivien, and our often puzzled viewers through the complexities of the Californian legal system and became a firm favourite with the newsroom and the public alike.

The court characters emerged. Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden for the prosecution, and the “Dream Team” defence – Jonnie Cochran, F Lee Bailey, Alan Dershowitz and Robert Kardashian, whose children would go on to outshine his fame.

It was compelling court drama, but it was also the very tragic story of two young people who’d been savagely attacked and murdered, with their families devastated by the loss, and tormented by the lingering back and forth court battle.

The proceedings had lasted months, but the jury reached their verdict in just a few hours and when they returned to the courtroom to deliver it, an early evening audience in the UK was hanging on every moment. And then it was over. OJ was a free man.

The People of the State of California v Orenthal James Simpson faded as a memory, flickering back to life with the news of his death.

24 January 1995

The murder trial, dubbed the “trial of the century” by the media, began.

Prosecutors argued OJ Simpson had killed Nicole and Ron in a jealous rage, and they presented extensive blood, hair and fibre tests linking him to the murders.

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The defence countered that the celebrity defendant was framed by racist white police.

15 June 1995

Perhaps the defining moment of the trial came on a Thursday in June, when the prosecution committed what a defence lawyer would later describe as the “greatest legal blunder of the 20th century”.

OJ Simpson grasps a marker while wearing the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore the night his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman were murdered.
Pic: Reuters
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OJ Simpson grasps a marker while wearing the leather gloves prosecutors say he wore on the night of the murder. Pic: Reuters

On this day, a prosecutor asked him to put on a pair of gloves believed to have been worn by the killer.

The gloves appeared to be too small, as OJ Simpson struggled to put on the gloves in a highly theatrical demonstration and indicated to the jury they did not fit.

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This led defence lawyer Johnnie Cochran to famously state in his closing argument: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.”

3 October 1995

The trial came to an end with two words – not guilty.

Read more:
OJ Simpson a ‘completely free man’ after being released from parole

OJ Simpson, who maintained from the outset he was “absolutely 100% not guilty”, waved at the jurors and mouthed the words “thank you”.

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US

OJ Simpson dies – the story of his complex legacy

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OJ Simpson dies - the story of his complex legacy

The death of arguably one of America’s most-talked about names in the 1990s has re-ignited conversations about who OJ Simpson was and how he will be remembered.

The former NFL star was tried and acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. He later spent time in jail for armed robbery and kidnap.

On the Daily, Niall Paterson talks to our US correspondent James Matthews as they discuss his life and the controversies surrounding the 76-year-old, who died on Wednesday following his battle with cancer.

👉 Listen above then tap here to follow the Sky News Daily wherever you get your podcasts 👈

Producers: Emma Rae Woodhouse, Rosie Gillott, Soila Apparicio
Senior producer: Annie Joyce
Editors: Paul Stanworth, Wendy Parker

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