Removing ban on foreign ownership of agricultural land

Smithfield Foods pork facility

A last-minute move by Missouri lawmakers could make it easier for a Chinese conglomerate to buy one of the biggest pork producers in the U.S. with a major presence in northern Missouri.

Legislators agreed on their final day of work in May to remove a ban on foreign ownership of agricultural land in Missouri.

The change spearheaded by Republican Representative Casey Guernsey of Bethany sets a foreign ownership limit at 1% of the state's agricultural acreage, subject to approval by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

The northern Missouri lawmaker says his bill was unrelated to the planned purchase by Shuanghui International Holdings Limited of Smithfield Foods Incorporated. The deal was announced May 29.

A Smithfield spokeswoman says the companies don't expect the sale to be hindered by the Missouri law or similar ones in other states.

Smithfield owns a variety of brands in a number of states throughout the U.S., including Farmland Foods with a facility in Milan and Premium Standard Farms.