Syngenta Seeds LLC will pay a $280,000 fine to the state of Arkansas for failing to report the Chinese government ownership stake in the company, the attorney general's office announced in a news release Thursday.
Attorney General Tim Griffin said the company failed to follow Act 1046, passed in 2021, that requires foreign persons who acquire interest in agriculture in the state to report their ownership stake to the Arkansas Department of Agriculture. Syngenta filed its disclosure of foreign ownership after the state deadline, Griffin said.
Syngenta makes genetically modified corn, wheat, soybeans, vegetable and sunflower seeds. It owns about 160 acres of farmland in Craighead County through a subsidiary, Northrup King Seed Co., according to the Attorney General's Office.
In 2017, China National Chemical Corporation, also known as ChemChina, acquired 80.7% of Syngenta's shares. In 2022 the U.S. Department of Defense listed ChemChina as a Chinese Military Company that operates in the United States.
The $280,000 civil penalty amounts to about 25% of the value of the land the company owns in Craighead County, the maximum fine it can face.
"Because Syngenta is foreign owned -- ultimately by the Chinese Communist Party -- it was required to report its ownership of agricultural land to the Secretary of the Arkansas Department of Agriculture," Griffin said in the news release. "It failed to timely do so -- filing the report well after the deadline."
The attorney general's office had recently ordered the company to divest ownership of the 160 acres it owns in Craighead County, using Act 636, which the General Assembly passed in 2023. Under the law the Arkansas Department of Agriculture may report ownership of agricultural land by a "prohibited foreign-party-controlled business" to the attorney general, who can initiate legal action in circuit court.
Syngenta has about two years to divest its ownership stake of its Arkansas land.
"This serves as a warning to all other Chinese state-owned companies operating in Arkansas -- I am investigating these types of properties throughout the state and will exercise all powers afforded to my office under the law," Griffin said. "As a 27-year Army officer, I can state unequivocally that our concerns over Chinese interests in America's strategic assets are well-founded and demand action."
In reaction to being forced to divest its Arkansas land holding, Syngenta Seeds President Eric Boeck wrote in an Oct. 20 opinion piece in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that the company's Arkansas site "is used for research, development, regulatory trials, and production to meet the needs of American farmers and to drive competition and innovation within the U.S. agricultural market."
"The suggestion that China is using Syngenta to purchase land or conduct operations in the U.S. for any purpose other than supporting the company's commercial business in North America is simply false," Boeck wrote.