Gov. Sarah SandersAttorney General Tim Griffin and state Agriculture Secretary Wes Ward today announced that state officials are giving the boot to a Chinese state-owned company that owns around 160 acres of land in Craighead County and fining the company with a civil penalty of $280,000 for failure to timely report foreign ownership.

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Sanders opened the announcement, strangely, by tying the move to the recent violence enacted by Hamas militants in Israel. Not sure what’s going on there.

“One thing is clear,” she said. “America’s enemies are on the march. They are cunning, they are brutal, and they will stop at nothing to harm America and our allies.”

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“We know who our enemies are,” she continued, and listed the usual suspects, with China of course getting special mention. A new Cold War can’t come soon enough for the neocon set.

What does this have to do with land in Craighead County? I don’t know.

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“For too long, in the name of tolerance, we’ve let these dangerous countries infiltrate our country,” Sanders said. “Arkansas will tolerate them no longer.” Previously, her administration has said we needed to gut the state’s Freedom of Information Act because China would somehow use government transparency to spy on Arkansas, or something. So maybe take these claims with a grain of homegrown salt.

The acreage in northeast Arkansas is owned by Northrup King Seed Co., a subsidiary of Syngenta Seeds, LLC. Syngenta is itself owned by China National Chemical Company (ChemChina), a state-owned enterprise, according to Arkansas officials. The land is used primarily for seed research.

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Griffin is ordering ChemChina to divest the land within two years or the state will pursue an enforcement action in 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,” Griffin said in a statement, “which represents 25% of the reported fair market value of the property, the maximum civil penalty allowed by law.” The company has 30 days to pay the fine, Griffin said.

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Sanders boasted that this bit of grandstanding was the first of its kind in the country. So there you go. The maneuver employs a demagogic law passed this year by the legislature, Act 636, which bans certain foreign entities deemed enemies from owning Arkansas agricultural lands.

“Seeds are technology,” Sanders said. “Chinese state-owned corporations filter that technology back to their homeland, stealing American research and telling our enemies how to target American farms.”

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Sanders added: “This isn’t about where you’re from…this is about where your loyalties lie.”

Griffin also got a turn at the mic grandstanding, but he just doesn’t have the juice. Poor guy.

Protectionism and China-bashing are go-to populist moves. Lest you think this production was meant to distract from PodiumGate, Sanders said this to a reporter who asked questions about the $19,000 lectern: “While we are focused on things that actually impact our state and impact Arkansans, the media wants to focus on things that frankly don’t.”

Sanders also elaborated on the podium’s supposed special features: It is a special height to accommodate female speakers; it has vague audio-related bells and whistles that don’t sound very special; and it includes “a number of other things” that she declined to name.

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