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Hoeven, Cramer add names to a bill that seeks more ag oversight of foreign investment

The legislation would, among other things, add the U.S. secretary of agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

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GRAND FORKS— U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer have added their names to legislation that seeks to get more input from the agriculture industry on a federal panel that oversees foreign investment in the United States.

John Hoeven
John Hoeven

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas. Its goal is to “bolster the U.S. agriculture industry’s role on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.” The legislation would, among other things, add the U.S. secretary of agriculture to CFIUS.

News of the North Dakota senators’ participation in the bill came Wednesday afternoon via press releases from both of their offices. Although the releases do not mention the proposed Fufeng project in Grand Forks — a wet corn mill with ownership ties to China — Hoeven and Cramer both have spoken out against the project over the past year, citing national security concerns due to its proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base.

The Fufeng project is awaiting final permitting before it can move forward. It has been the focus of controversy since it was announced, and was reviewed by CFIUS in recent months. The committee ultimately declared that it does not have jurisdiction in the case .

“Our nation relies every single day on the food, fuel and fiber that our farmers and ranchers produce, and the ever-increasing foreign investment in our agriculture supply chain represents a real risk to America’s food security and the economic success of our agriculture producers,” Hoeven said in the media release. “That’s why we’re advancing this legislation to ensure the U.S. agriculture industry has a voice in CFIUS reviews and that foreign investments and acquisitions in the agriculture sector receive proper oversight.”

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Kevin Cramer
Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota)

Along with adding the agriculture secretary to CFIUS, the releases from both senators provided several other bullet points of the proposed legislation, including:

  • Protect the U.S. agriculture industry from foreign control through transactions, mergers, acquisitions, or agreements.
  • Designate agricultural supply chains as critical infrastructure and critical technologies.
  • Require a report to Congress on current and potential foreign investments in the U.S. agricultural industry from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Government Accountability Office (GAO).

In a statement sent to the media early Wednesday afternoon, Cramer said “food security is national security.”
He added: “Our government must be diligent in conducting risk assessments of agriculture investments by foreign adversaries — for reasons including geopolitical strategy, U.S. supply chain protection, and support of American farmers and ranchers.”

Although it wasn’t a quote, nor was it directly attributed to Cramer, a portion of his press release gave deeper background on what Cramer apparently believes is a growing concern nationally.

“Over the past few years, the United States has experienced a rapid increase in foreign investment in the agricultural sector, particularly from China. Growing foreign investment in agriculture and other essential industries, like health care and energy, threaten our country’s national security and ability to survive. Our agricultural sector needs increased oversight and transparency to secure our country’s food supply,” the Cramer release said.

It further noted that CFIUS, while having oversight of foreign investment in relation to domestic security, “does not directly consider the needs of the agriculture industry” in its reviews.

The bill is being called the “Foreign Adversary Risk Management Act,” shortened to FARM Act.

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More than a year after it was first announced, the council on Monday voted 5-0 to move away from the Fufeng project. Council members Kyle Kvamme and Tricia Lunski did not attend the meeting.

Korrie Wenzel has been publisher of the Grand Forks Herald and Prairie Business Magazine since 2014.

He is a member of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. board of directors and, in the past, has served on boards for Junior Achievement, the South Dakota Historical Society Foundation, United Way, Empire Arts Center, Cornerstones Career Learning Center and Crimestoppers.

As publisher, Wenzel oversees news, advertising and business operations at the Herald, as well as the newspaper's opinion content.

In the past, Wenzel was sports editor for 14 years at The Daily Republic of Mitchell, S.D., before becoming editor and, eventually, publisher.

Wenzel can be reached at 701-780-1103, or via Twitter via @korriewenzel.
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