A white sign with black text reads
"No Trespassing" sign outside Fort Gillem Army Base in Forest Park, Georgia. (Jay Villarouel/Fresh Take Georgia)

Growing concerns over national security prompted passage of Senate Bill 420 in the Georgia General Assembly this past term. The bill aims to limit the ownership of agricultural land within 10 miles of any military installation in Georgia by “foreign persons and entities” and nonresident aliens.  

Gov. Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on Tuesday, April 30. 

Georgia is home to 13 military bases and has the fifth most active-duty military personnel in the United States behind California, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.  

Foreign entities as defined in the bill are any business headquartered in a country classified as a foreign adversary by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The six countries named as adversaries are China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea and Russia. Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R-Dallas) emphasized that S.B. 420 is crucial in safeguarding national security.  

138 members of the General Assembly voted in favor of the bill.  

“We are a country that’s open arms, but there needs to be a balance so we know you’re coming here to live, not buy up our agricultural land,” said Rep. David Clark (R-Buford). “The bill is very simple and very straightforward and protects us from foreign adversaries.”

The bill requires foreign entities and persons who own agricultural land near a military installation to sell it within two years or be found guilty of a felony and punished by a fine of up to $15,000. They could also face two years in state prison. 

Georgia real estate agents must inform their non-American clients who are considering buying land near a military base of the law. 

Rep. Michelle Au (D-Johns Creek) said she is concerned S.B. 420 will cause undue stress on real estate agents. 

“Under this bill a realtor might think a little bit harder, they might ask a little bit more questions,” she said. “They might be more concerned about the risk before selling or leasing her property compared to another buyer.”  

“The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is fully dedicated to the overall safety and quality of the food that Georgia residents consume,” said Bryant Kersey with the Georgia Agriculture Tax Exemption program in the GDA. “We will always take steps towards making sure the people we serve are eating the right things. S.B. 420 will only help to further protect our people.”

Chief Warrant Officer 5 (Ret.) Monty Hines, who currently works as a military consultant in the Pentagon, said S.B. 420 is focused in the wrong area.  

“Cyber security is currently our biggest threat to national security,” Hines said. “There are plenty of minority businesses around most military bases, and they know what service members look like because they make up a good portion of their business. So, a bill worried about foreign adversaries spying through nearby farmland raises more questions than it solves problems.”   

“With our NATO allies, there are different countries,” said Rep. Derrick Jackson (D-South Fulton). “There are different ethnicities and races serving to help the United States to bolster their posture around national security. Our number one risk right now in national security is cyber security. I see loopholes. I see discrimination. This bill will not address national security.”

The bill will take effect July 1, 2024.

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