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Chinese-owned seed company ordered to leave Arkansas

Mary Hightower
/
University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the state is willing to take legal action against Syngenta, which is owned by a Chinese parent company.

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is asking a Chinese company with a presence in Arkansas to leave the state.

Syngenta is a seed company that owns 160 acres of land in Craighead County. In a news conference Tuesday, Sanders said the company will face legal action if it does not relocate.

“This is not about where you are from,” she said. “This is about where your loyalties lie. We simply cannot trust those who pledge allegiance to a hostile foreign power.”

Syngenta, which is headquartered in Switzerland, is owned by a Chinese parent company called ChemChina. In 2021, the Department of Defense put ChemChina on a list of “Chinese military companies.”

Sanders says the company could potentially steal seed secrets and bring it “back to their homeland.”

This comes after Act 636 was passed by the legislature earlier this year. The law prevents land ownership from “foreign party-controlled businesses.” Attorney General Tim Griffin says Arkansans should be concerned about Syngenta.

“There is nothing that is off limits for them,” he said.

Griffin said he wrote a letter to the company asking them to end operations in Arkansas.

“They have to divest themselves of the land they have in Craighead County,” he said. He was confident the company would fall in line, but if not he said he was open to “taking legal action.”

Griffin says he has written to the company and plans to take legal action if they are not out of the state within the next two years.

Syngenta did not respond to Little Rock Public Radios' request for comment.

Lectern

Confusion continues over a lectern purchased by the governor's office.

The lectern’s $19,000 price tag has come under fire for its costliness. It was initially purchased with a state credit card but then reimbursed after the invoices were publicly requested.

On Tuesday, Sanders clarified why she thought the podium had such a high price tag.

“The height of the podium is specific, I don’t know if you have noticed but women are often shorter than most of our male counterparts.” she said, adding she needed a podium that would allow multiple plugins for different media outlets.

The podium purchase will be investigated by the Arkansas Legislative Audit. The governor says she welcomes the investigation.

Sanders was standing at a different lectern during Tuesday's press conference.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for Little Rock Public Radio.