Our view: Hey, feds: How about a little faster reaction next time?

The Air Force finally put this project out of its misery. We see it as good news. But next time, could some federal agency let us know a little earlier in the process?

Herald pull quote, 2/4/23
Herald graphic

The controversial Fufeng project will soon be dead. The bullet that killed it came in a letter from a U.S. Department of the Air Force representative who didn’t mince words about the Chinese-owned project’s threat to national security.

The Air Force’s “view is unambiguous: the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area,” Andrew Hunter wrote.

Finally – word from above. While appreciated, it certainly would have been useful information earlier in the process.

For some, it’s easy to criticize the efforts by the city these past 14 months. They’ll say City Council members wouldn’t listen and that the mayor and the city administrator were tone deaf to the interests of the community.

To us, it’s not that simple. We saw this process as one that was following the law and verified facts – especially in terms of national security. All along, city leaders said that if they heard from an official federal source that the Fufeng project poses a national security risk, they would back away from the project.


They heard. Now, they will back away, as promised.

The Fufeng project was expected to bring hundreds of jobs and have a huge economic impact.

We don’t doubt it. In fact, we believe bringing in a massive agribusiness – Fufeng’s project was a corn mill – is among the keys to the community’s economic future, along with the tech and unmanned aerial systems industries.

As retail traffic in Grand Forks slows, something is needed. Agribusiness seems to be a logical replacement. But not if it poses a security threat.

On Monday, we expect the city to officially move away from the Fufeng corn mill. Council members and the mayor told the Herald they don’t see any way they can move forward, considering the project’s issues with national security.

Thank you, Air Force, for putting clarity in this ugly controversy. Now, we wonder why it took so long.

Going forward, national agencies – the Department of Defense, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, etc. – would be doing states and communities a favor if they simply would use their expertise (which we pay for) to make a determination and pass it downward.

Even Gov. Doug Burgum said the same.


“If (CFIUS) can’t give you an answer, then what’s the process that we should have?” he told the Herald. “The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and we are the country that receives the most amount of direct foreign investments of any economy in the world. If there are new sets of rules that are being formed one-off about who can invest and who can’t, it would be good to make sure that states and cities know that.”

Cities are not equipped to make national security decisions. States aren’t, either.

All anyone wanted throughout this process was help from above. In September, a Herald editorial’s headline read: “Hey, CFIUS: Do us all a favor and say we shouldn’t move forward with the Fufeng project.” We were tired of the controversy and ready to move on.

We wrote: “If CFIUS says Fufeng is not a threat, the city likely will continue moving forward on the project. If that happens, we cross our fingers in hopes that some sort of new petition arises and a citywide vote can be held.”

And “for the sake of the community … it might be best for the city to walk away from Fufeng and put the controversy to rest. A strongly worded CFIUS decision could make that easier.”

CFIUS, mysteriously, declared it doesn’t have jurisdiction in the case, adding another layer to the controversy. The Air Force finally put this project out of its misery. We see it as good news.

But next time, could some federal agency let us know a little earlier in the process?

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