Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Wes Ward has asked the state’s attorney general to investigate two companies that Ward say are possibly linked to the Chinese government.
In a pair of letters sent Monday to Attorney General Tim Griffin, Ward cited a newly passed law that bars certain kinds of foreign controlled businesses from owning agricultural land in Arkansas. Ward said in a letter that Risever Machinery LLC, which operates a facility in Craighead County, and Jones Digital LLC, which has a planned crypto mining operation in DeWitt, may have ties to the Chinese government, which if true would violate state law.
Under Act 636, which Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed into law in April, the Department of Agriculture has the power to investigate companies that are owned by “prohibited foreign-party-controlled business.” Under the law businesses where a prohibited foreign country has at least a 50% stake are not allowed to own agricultural land in Arkansas and the Department of Agriculture may report the company to the attorney general’s office, which can order the company to divest.
Countries prohibited from owning agricultural land in Arkansas are ones listed on the federal International Traffic in Arms Regulations, such as China, North Korea and Syria.
“In accordance with Act 636, the Arkansas Department of Agriculture is directed to collect and analyze information concerning the unlawful sale or possession of agricultural land by prohibited foreign parties and report violations to the Arkansas Attorney General,” Ward wrote in the letter to Griffin.
“I am in receipt of the Secretary’s letter fulfilling his statutory obligation to refer potential illegal foreign land ownership to me,” Griffin, a Republican, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “We are investigating a number of crypto mining operations to ensure their compliance with Arkansas law.”
Ward said Risever Machinery, a company