(Kim Jarrett, The Center Square) Grand Forks, North Dakota, will deny building permits to a Chinese-based food manufacturer that purchased land near an Air Force base, the mayor said Tuesday.
Chinese food manufacturer Fufeng Group announced the purchase of 370 acres of land for a wet corn milling plant in 2021. The site is 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base.
In a letter to U.S. Sens. Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven, the USAF called the purchase of North Dakota land by a Chinese company “a significant threat to national security.”
The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States said in December it did not have the jurisdiction to weigh in on the plant.
“While CIFUS concluded that it did not have the jurisdiction, the Department’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,” said Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics in a letter to Cramer and Hoven.
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski said the city would also refuse to connect industrial infrastructure to the site.
“These actions do not affect the land ownership as the company will still legally own the land they have purchased,” Bochenski said in a statement posted on the city’s website. “The response from the Federal Government during this process can only be viewed as slow and contradictory. This directive leaves open the question of other entities with Chinese connections across the nation, to include Grand Forks’ Cirrus Aircraft site location and Chinese students and professors at the University of North Dakota.”
Gov. Doug Burgum said the letter from the Air Force finally gives the state clarity.
“Given these concerns, we support the decision by the City of Grand Forks to initiate steps to stop the project with Fufeng Group and will support the city in finding another partner for a corn milling operation,” Burgum said in a news release. “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.”
The Fufeng purchase concerned North Dakota’s southern neighbor.
South Dakota lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that creates a Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – South Dakota to investigate agricultural land purchases by foreign countries.
“With this new process, we will be able to prevent nations who hate us – like Communist China – from buying up our state’s agriculture land,” Gov. Kristi Noem said in a previous statement. “We cannot allow the Chinese Communist Party to continue to buy up our nation’s food supply, so South Dakota will lead the charge on this vital national security issue.”