TOPEKA — It’s time to keep China out of Kansas agricultural lands, Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach said, announcing his support of legislation intended to prevent Kansas farmers from selling that land to foreign entities.
The bill in question, Senate Bill 100, would prohibit any non-U.S. citizen from buying Kansas real estate in certain areas. The bill would also give the attorney general authority to investigate real estate transactions believed to involve foreign agents. Exemptions to the bill would include property located in Johnson, Sedgwick, Shawnee or Wyandotte counties, along with property acquired before July 1, 2023.
Kobach said these counties were excluded from the legislation because the concern was about foreign interference with agriculture, not urban businesses.
“It’s chiefly Chinese interests that are purchasing large amounts of agricultural land, in an evident effort to gain control of greater and greater share of our food supply,” Kobach said. “And the reason is ostensibly to serve Chinese national interests and ensure that China has access to the produce from these lands, not the interest of Kansas.”
Kobach, flanked by Tony Mattivi, his nominee for Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and Rep. Michael Murphy, R-Sylvia, also outlined other priorities for the legislative session during a Thursday news conference. These priorities included fighting ESG standards, reducing retail crime, fighting fentanyl and doing away with concealed carry permit costs.
He said one of his highest priorities would be working to prohibit environmental, social and governance standards from being used in state investments. Kobach said the state has a fiduciary duty to increase returns and state dollars shouldn’t be used to promote partisan agendas.
“I’m a member of KPERS, I would like to see my dollars invested in order to maximize the financial return, not to push a particular partisan agenda or ideological agenda,” Kobach said.
Kobach said he supported legislation from Murphy and Sen. Mike Thompson that would require investment advisors to inform clients and get written consent before placing clients’ money in an ESG-driven fund. He said factors such as phasing out fossil fuels, working toward carbon-neutral agriculture and reducing timber use shouldn’t be used in determining investment without client approval.
“Now to some people, those are lofty goals,” Kobach said. “And to those people, I would say you should advance those goals in the legislatures of this country and in Congress. That is the place to debate whether or not America should use less fossil fuels, or any of these issues. But it is not something that you should use the hard-earned dollars of Kansas workers or the dollars of Kansas taxpayers to advance those objectives.”
To combat fentanyl use in the state, Kobach said his office would send a request to the Kansas Sentencing Commission asking for a special fentanyl offenses column, with the goal of increasing penalties for fentanyl-related crimes. Kobach said more KBI resources would be devoted toward fentanyl issues as well.
Kobach also announced the creation of an organized retail crime task force, which would involve his office, local law enforcement and retailers in fighting retail crime. He also mentioned a bill that would give the Attorney General’s Office original perpetual authority in multi-county crimes, saying the legislation would help him put an end to large-scale retail theft.
Mattivi said he was glad that Kobach was focusing on the issues of retail crime and fentanyl, saying the two should be KBI priorities. He compared fentanyl to crack cocaine and methamphetamines, saying fentanyl would devastate communities in similar ways.
“We are now seeing the same thing happen with fentanyl,” Mattivi said. “And we recognize that we are on the leading edge of what unfortunately may prove to be a tidal wave. The attorney general has absolutely correctly said this problem is going to get worse before it gets better.”
Kobach said his last priority was making concealed carry permits free statewide, in the belief that getting rid of fees would make gun ownership safer. He said Kansans would be motivated to get permits and go through training with the fee removal, and that he didn’t believe people should have to pay to use firearms.
“You should not have to pay to exercise a constitutional right,” Kobach said. “Reporters should not and do not have to pay the state a fee in order to report on what the state does. Churchgoers, we do not have to pay the state the fee to exercise our free exercise of religion rights when we attend church. Nor should people have to pay the state a fee to exercise their Second Amendment right to bear arms.”