Foreign land ownership bills introduced in Nebraska Legislature (podcast)

Foreign land ownership bills introduced in Nebraska Legislature (podcast)
Professor and Agricultural Law Specialist
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Two bills dealing with alien land ownership restrictions have been introduced in the 2024 Nebraska legislative session. Dave Aiken, professor and extension agricultural law specialist at Nebraska, discussed them on the Feb. 6, 2024, episode of "Nebraska FARMcast," embedded above. Below is a partial transcript. 

Why we hearing so much about alien land ownership laws? Probably due to some recent instances where Chinese interests acquired land near Air Force bases, including in North Dakota. In response, Congress is considering inclusion of alien land ownership restrictions in the new farm bill, and several states are their revising alien land ownership requirements to take national security into account. That is what our two bills do as well. 

What are Nebraska’s current alien land ownership restrictions? Basically,  non-resident aliens and non-Nebraska corporations are prohibited from acquiring land in Nebraska, including land leases greater than five years. There are some exceptions, main one for land in or within 3 miles of cities and villages, and land used for manufacturing, industrial or utility purposes. 

Who enforces these restrictions? Local county attorneys.

How would this be changed? Both bills are concerned about land purchases near military installations but they take slightly different approaches. 

The first bill is LB1120, introduced by Sen. Brian Hardin (Gering). Whenever land is sold within 10 miles of a military installation (including those in neighboring states), the buyer must sign an affidavit certifying that the they are not affiliated with any federally-identified foreign adversary countries or their citizens (China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc.). The affidavit must be filed with the county register of deeds in order for the land sale to be officially recorded. If there is no signed affidavit, the land sale does not go through. LB1120 excludes Douglas and Lancaster counties.

Tell us about the other bill. LB1301 was introduced by Sen Barry DeKay (Verdel) at the request of Gov. Pillen. LB1301 would establish the Foreign-owned Real Estate National Security Act. LB1301 is a comprehensive revision of Nebraska’s alien land ownership statutes, including giving enforcement responsibilities to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture and the Nebraska Attorney General.                                           
Does LB1301 address national defense? Yes, LB1301 would prohibit non-resident alien land ownership by countries or their residents on federal foreign adversary or similar lists within 10 miles of active federal military installations, including missile silos. The Nebraska Real Estate Commission would prepare maps identifying these areas and update them annually. 

How about enforcement? The maps would really help with enforcement. Any citizen concerns regarding alien land ownership violations could be reported to the Agriculture Department or Attorney General. The Agriculture Department would be responsible for investigating possible violations. If violations occurred, the land would be required to be sold.

So what happens next? LB1301 will be heard by the Agriculture Committee on Tuesday Feb. 6, and LB1120 will be heard by the Banking Committee Monday Feb. 12. If they are reported out of committee, they then go through the legislative debate process.                  

Any final comments? Alien land ownership is a pretty hot topic, so I would expect these bills to have a lot of support. They might even be combined into a single bill.