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Farmland ownership legislation headed to governor


At the beginning of the General Assembly session last month, many lawmakers were caught off guard when the governor announced he wanted to prevent people with ties to the Chinese government from buying Virginia farmland.

Now that the session is almost over, he has the support of a handful of Senate Democrats. One is Senator Dave Marsden of Fairfax County. "It's enough that parts of the world are trying to take a number of things from us. I don't think we need to make it easier," Marsden said. "I support this bill, and at the end of the day we do not want to create foreign-owned balloon landing sites here in the Commonwealth of Virginia."

The bill now under consideration from the governor allows the United States Department of Commerce to create a list of countries that would apply.

Senator Scott Surovell is a Democrat from Fairfax County who says that's not a good approach. "What this bill says is that the Secretary of Commerce decides that, not just this country list, but a person -- any person, any human being — if there's a human being who the Secretary of commerce determines is acting on behalf of a country that the ownership of land is void. Does anybody understand how nuclear of a remedy that is," Surovell asked?

The Senate version of the bill is already on its way to the governor's desk, and the House of Delegates will be considering a separate version this week.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.