A Chinese wet corn mill project in North Dakota has been halted due to national security concerns based on the mill’s proximity to U.S. air and space operations.
In 2021, the Chinese food manufacturer purchased the 370 acres of land for the wet corn milling plant. The Fufeng USA plant’s location is within 12 miles of the Grand Fork Air Force Base and has stirred up controversy since the group’s purchase.
This week, the Air Force issued a letter to North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven stating their concern about the threat the foreign-owned land poses. Listing near- and long-term risks to operations in the area, they wrote, “Grand Forks Air Force Base is the center of military activities related to both air and space operations.”
Gov. Doug Burgum also issued a statement to senators.
“We joined with city leaders in asking the federal government for clarity on any national security implications related to the Fufeng project, and now we finally have that clarity,” he wrote.
And while North Dakota says they support investments from allies, China hasn’t made the cut. At least, not that close to military bases.
“As our farmers who compete in global markets know, agriculture is a global business, and North Dakota welcomes investment from domestic companies and our friends and allies,” Burgum said.
Hoeven and fellow North Dakota Sen. Kevin Cramer responded, stating that Grand Forks would cut ties with the Chinese group.
“We believe the city should discontinue the Fufeng project and instead we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project,” said the senators.
Concern for foreign land-ownership has been growing in recent years. Federal law currently requires foreign entities to disclose foreign investment and ownership of U.S. land to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
But, it’s not just about who owns the land, it’s about what the investor’s intentions are. Earlier this year, a Wyoming bill HB8 was introduced to end foreign land ownership in the state. Last year, a USDA-FDA funding bill was introduced to block Chinese and other non-friendly foreign countries from purchasing U.S. farmland.
According to a 2021 report from the USxDA, foreign investors owned about 40 million acres of U.S. agricultural land across 50 states — a number that’s doubled between 2010 and 2020.