Published July 1, 2003 | July 2003 issue
The state Legislature passed a bill that allows several Dutch farmers who inadvertently purchased farmland illegally in Minnesota to keep their land for at least the next five years. They bought their dairy farms unaware that a 30-year-old state law prohibited noncitizens from owning farmland. Generally, foreigners whose countries have an agreement with the United States are allowed to purchase businesses if they hold E-2 investor visas.
Supporters of the bill see foreign investors as breathing some new life into the dairy industry, which lost about 9,000 farms over the past decade.
Opponents worry that foreign buyers will build mega-dairies and drive small farmers out of business. But foreign investors must comply with corporate farm laws just as U.S. citizens do.
The bill that passed the Legislature applies only to that handful of current Dutch farmers and only until 2008, but many expect legislative debate on ownership restrictions to continue.