A Chinese corn mill proposal in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on land that’s located within 15 miles of the Grand Forks Air Force Base, is set to be terminated after the U.S. Air Force warned that the project poses a “significant threat to national security.”
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski announced on Jan. 31 that he plans to stop the project by Fufeng Group, a large Chinese agribusiness, in response to a request from U.S. authorities.
“The federal government has requested the city’s help in stopping the project as geo-political tensions have greatly increased since the initial announcement of the project,” Bochenski said in a statement.
“The only remedies the city has to meet this directive is to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits. As mayor of the city of Grand Forks, I am requesting these remedies be undertaken and the project be stopped, pending City Council approval.”
The move came not long after Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) shared a Jan. 27 letter (pdf) from the Air Force stating that the branch has an “unambiguous” view that the “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.”
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum issued a statement on Jan. 31 supporting the decision.
“As we said previously, our top priority is the security of our citizens and our nation. 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 said.
“Given [the Air Force’s] 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.”
Ben Grzadzielewski, a Grand Forks resident who has been leading a grassroots campaign against the project, said that the project’s termination “goes to show you that the people still have the ability to rise up and overcome.”
“If they’d listened to us in the beginning, it would’ve saved them a year’s worth of time and a lot of money,” he told The Epoch Times.
The city of Grand Forks announced the Fufeng project in November 2021 and approved the development agreement in July 2022.
Fufeng USA, the U.S. subsidiary of Fufeng Group, will still own the 370-acre farmland they purchased in Grand Forks in the fall of 2021.
Fufeng USA officials didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
In December 2022, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a federal panel charged with reviewing foreign acquisitions for national security risks, decided that it didn’t have jurisdiction to probe the land purchase. Before that, the project had prompted significant pushback from Republican lawmakers and locals who said it threatened both national and economic security.
Both Sens. Cramer and Hoeven raised national security concerns before and after the CFIUS review.
As of Dec. 31, 2020, China owned 325,686 acres of U.S. agricultural land, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. While the acreage under Chinese ownership is slightly less than 1 percent of all foreign-held agricultural land, it represents about a 20-fold leap from 13,720 acres in 2010.
Many state officials have also sounded the alarm about Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland. As a result, some states are creating legislation to prohibit or restrict Chinese entities from buying U.S. agricultural land and businesses. These states include South Dakota, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Missouri, and Iowa.