LITTLE ROCK – Attorney General Tim Griffin today issued the following statement announcing he is ordering a Chinese state-owned company to divest its ownership of approximately 160 acres of land in Craighead County and imposing a civil penalty of $280,000 for failure to timely report foreign ownership:
“This is the first enforcement action I have taken under the authority granted under Act 636 of 2023 by the General Assembly to ban prohibited foreign entities from owning Arkansas agricultural lands. The land in question is owned by Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds, LLC, which is ultimately owned by China National Chemical Company (ChemChina), a state-owned enterprise.
“I am ordering ChemChina, as a ‘prohibited foreign-party-controlled business’ to divest this land within two years or I will commence an enforcement action in Craighead County circuit court.
“Additionally, as the owner failed to file in a timely manner documents required by Act 1046 of 2021 with the Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture, I am also imposing a civil penalty of $280,000, which represents 25% of the reported fair market value of the property, the maximum civil penalty allowed by law.
“I thank Secretary Wes Ward and the Department of Agriculture for their help in obtaining information to assist my office in determining the ultimate foreign owners of this land in Craighead County. It is this kind of teamwork across state government that will help us all continue to protect the interests of Arkansans for generations to come.”
Under Act 636, state law bars a “prohibited foreign-party-controlled business” from acquiring or holding public or private land in Arkansas either directly or through affiliated parties. Among the definitions of a “prohibited foreign party” in state law are individuals or entities with a connection to a country subject to the federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The People’s Republic of China is subject to ITAR.
In March 2022, Syngenta Seeds, LLC submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture Form 153 regarding the Craighead County property pursuant to the federal Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA), stating that “[u]ltimately, the foreign person that holds indirectly a significant interest in the person owning the land is from China.”
Under Act 1046 of 2021, a foreign person required to file an AFIDA report shall also file a copy of the report to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture “within the time period required under the federal law.”
To read the letter to Northrup King Seed Co. and Syngenta Seeds, LLC, click here.
To read Syngenta’s Form 153 AFIDA filing, click here.
About Attorney General Tim Griffin
Tim Griffin was sworn in as the 57th Attorney General of Arkansas on January 10, 2023, having
previously served as the state’s 20th Lieutenant Governor from 2015-2023. From 2011-2015, Griffin served as the 24th representative of Arkansas’s Second Congressional District, where he served on the House Committee on Ways and Means, House Armed Services Committee, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Committee on Ethics and House Committee on the Judiciary while also serving as a Deputy Whip for the Majority.
Griffin has served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps for more than 27 years and currently holds the rank of colonel. In 2005, Griffin was mobilized to active duty as an Army prosecutor at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and served with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) in Mosul, Iraq.
He is currently serving as the Commander of the 2d Legal Operations Detachment in New Orleans, Louisiana. His previous assignments include serving as the Commander of the 134th Legal Operations Detachment at Fort Liberty (née Bragg), North Carolina, and as a Senior Legislative Advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness at the Pentagon. Griffin earned a master’s degree in strategic studies as a Distinguished Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.
Griffin also served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, and Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Political Affairs for President George W. Bush; Special Assistant to Assistant Attorney General Michael Chertoff, Criminal Division, U.S. Department of Justice; Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Arkansas; Senior Investigative Counsel, Government Reform and Oversight Committee, U.S. House of Representatives; and Associate Independent Counsel, Office of Independent Counsel David M. Barrett, In re: HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros.
Griffin is a graduate of Magnolia High School, Hendrix College in Conway, and Tulane Law School in New Orleans. He attended graduate school at Oxford University. He is admitted to practice law in Arkansas (active) and Louisiana (inactive). Griffin attends Immanuel Baptist Church and lives in Little Rock with his wife, Elizabeth, a Camden native, and their three children.