Argentine government limits foreign landowners

December 22, 2011 - 11:36 PM
CORRECTION Argentina Media Control

** CORRECTS PHOTOGRAPHER'S AND NEWSPAPER'S BYLINE TO MARCELO GENLOTE, CLARIN ** Workers move paper rolls at the newsprint company Papel Prensa in San Pedro, some 180 kilometers (115 miles) north of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The country's senate voted Thursday 41-26 to control newsprint's manufacture, sale and distribution to media friends and foes alike, in a long-sought victory for President Cristina Fernandez, whose allies won control of Congress as she begins her second term.(AP Photo/Marcelo Genlote, Clarin) ARGENTINA OUT - NO PUBLICAR EN ARGENTINA

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina imposed tough new limits on foreign ownership of farmland on Thursday, part of a package of laws that give the government much more control over the agricultural industry.

The Senate voted 62-1 to bar non-Argentines from holding title to more than 2,500 acres. Nationwide, no more than 15 percent of the farmland can be sold to foreigners, and no more than 30 percent of foreign-owned land can be held by people from the same nationality.

A key part of the law would create a national land registry, enabling the government to figure out for the first time who owns what.

President Cristina Fernandez is getting a range of new tools from Congress that she's expected to use to assert more control over the producers of soy, wheat, cattle and other commodities that have delivered windfall profits and revenues.

The Senate also passed new penalties against tax evasion and money laundering, schemes allegedly used by multinational agriculture companies to spirit their profits out of the country.

Lawmakers also eliminated a dictatorship-era arrangement that enabled union and farm industry power-brokers to parcel out jobs and stifle complaints among farmworkers. The government plans to take over that role, ensuring that farmworkers get an eight-hour day, weekends off and minimum wages, among other benefits.

The law is not meant to be retroactive, to avoid affecting property rights. And there are exceptions, for example, for foreigners who are married to Argentine citizens, who have Argentine children or who have five years of permanent residency.

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