Concerns in Grand Forks, North Dakota, over a Chinese Communist Party-linked agribusiness are mounting with their plans to build a corn mill that is feared to pose national security risks for the country because of the company’s planned proximity to a top military base in the state.
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Fufeng USA, a global bio-fermentation company, plans to use the corn mill facility to extract ingredients that go into animal nutrition feed products sold in the North American market.
While some local politicals see jobs and money for the local population, a few US lawmakers are growing very uneasy about bigger problems, like the potential access China would get to America’s military secrets while in the location.
“It’s 370 acres near Grand Forks, North Dakota, which is in the heart of the Red River Valley. In other words, it’s very productive farmland. Also importantly, it’s about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is a very sophisticated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) base. They fly Global Hawks.
We just put in a new ground station for the first tranche of satellites by the Space Development Agency. So it’s a vital uplink downlink data center at the Grand Forks Air Force Base.
Proximity both to the important farmland and to an important airbase make this particularly problematic,” US Senator for North Dakota Kevin Cramer said in a statement from his office.
“I’m more broadly concerned by the fact that China can come in and continually make investments and buy property, enter into our food supply chain right here in the United States. Remember, during the pandemic, it was discovered that China’s ownership of meat processing in the United States made our meat supply vulnerable.
If we haven’t learned about the vulnerability of food supply, energy supply, other critical minerals, and pharmaceuticals from China, we aren’t learning very quickly. I’m very concerned about it. I’ve been opposed to this from the beginning. Quite honestly, I’ve been outspoken about it, but now we’re asking for a further review by CFIUS,” Cramer said.
Cramer also appeared on Fox and Friends with Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday and talked about his concerns, saying:
“We’re a very open system, Brian, there’s no question about that. The Chinese have taken advantage of that openness in the United States. We willingly brought them in in many respects, as have a lot of other countries. A lot of other countries have learned their lesson, including countries much closer to China than we are.
We are not desperate for this investment in North Dakota or anywhere in United States, but particularly North Dakota. We can do better than this.
Thankfully, there are people like Beth and several other concerned citizens who did sound the alarm. I think when the investment opportunity first came it was not known the Chairman was an activist in the Chinese Communist Party. As soon as that became known, we should have gotten out of it.
Now though, we are seeking further review from a national defense perspective. I’m confident that we’ll find lots of concern from the federal government.”
“I think a strategic decoupling from China is absolutely the right move for the United States of America. We ought to be very deliberate about it and we have to be very quick about it.”
According to the National Desk, “Fufeng Group and Fufeng USA argue they aren’t on the White House national security prohibition list.”
“The National Counterintelligence and Security Center (NCSC) does not consider agribusiness or wet corn milling an economic and national security concern,” according to a group fact sheet. “The sectors of concern are artificial intelligence, biotechnology [such as biomaterials, biopharmaceuticals, and new vaccines and drugs], autonomous systems, quantum computing, and semiconductors.”
The project has support from the City Council and bi-partisan concerns, according to The National Desk.
“Fufeng Group—the second largest xanthan gum producer in China—recently purchased 370 acres located north of Grand Forks after the City Council voted to annex the property. The city then changed the parcel’s designation to an industrial zone from agricultural to allow the project to move forward under federal law”.
“On July 14, Cramer and fellow Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressing their concerns.
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In the letter, the senators requested that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) does a full review of Fufeng’s corn mill plans for potential security violations.
“Public reports suggest that CFIUS has expressed interest in this transaction and that the city of Grand Forks has requested the company make a voluntary filing with CFIUS,” the senators wrote in the letter. “We believe that a full CFIUS review would clarify whether the purchase of this land by Fufeng Group carries national security implications.”
The situation has “led to concern that Fufeng operations could provide cover for PRC [the People’s Republic of China] surveillance or interference with the missions located at that installation, given Fufeng Group’s reported ties to the Chinese Communist Party.”