Bipartisan Lawmakers Urge Federal Government to Review Chinese Acquisition of US Grain Terminal

‘China is attempting to buy up America’s commercial infrastructure and farmland at a breakneck pace,’ Rep. Mike Bost said.
Bipartisan Lawmakers Urge Federal Government to Review Chinese Acquisition of US Grain Terminal
A combine harvester drives over stalks of wheat during the harvest on a farm in Illinois on July 16, 2013. (Jim Young/Reuters)

Two Illinois lawmakers have asked the federal government to review a recent acquisition in which a Chinese state-run company took full ownership of a grain terminal strategically located on the Mississippi River.

In a bipartisan letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), dated June 27, Reps. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) and Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.) raised concerns over the impact of the acquisition of the Cahokia grain terminal on national security and the region’s agricultural economy.

“China is attempting to buy up America’s commercial infrastructure and farmland at a breakneck pace. The economic and national security implications are far too great to allow that to happen,” Mr. Bost said in a statement.

In 2017, Illinois-based company Growmark and Chinese state-owned firm COFCO International entered a partnership to jointly operate the Cahokia grain terminal facility in Illinois.

COFCO, or China Oil and Foodstuffs Corp., is the largest food processing company in China. It is also one of the leading agribusiness groups in Asia, with revenues of $50 billion in 2023.

On June 20, COFCO and Growmark announced a deal in which Growmark sold its minority stake in the Cahokia facility to COFCO.

The facility, strategically located on the Mississippi River, connects to all seven major railroads in North America and has more than seven miles of private rail track on site. It can handle up to four trains at once and serves as a high-speed rail and truck-to-barge loading facility, according to a COFCO statement announcing the deal.

In the letter from lawmakers, Mr. Bost and Ms. Budzinski, who both serve on the House Agriculture Committee, warned that “this transaction will pose a threat to U.S. national security on America’s largest inland waterway.”

The lawmakers also expressed concerns to Ms. Yellen that “a majority of U.S. ports and terminals are owned and operated by foreign entities, especially China.”

“COFCO’s acquisition of the Cahokia grain terminal is just the latest in an ongoing divesture of American waterways and will contribute to that majority,” they said.

They pointed out that COFCO also took full ownership of another grain terminal in the United States from a Dutch agribusiness in 2016. They noted that with the acquisition of the Cahokia grain terminal, COFCO now owns more than six locations across the United States, including port terminals and warehouse storage.

“As the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] tries to strengthen its grip on the means of American agricultural production and commerce, we must push back,” Ms. Budzinski said. “I urge the committee to take a serious look at the scope and implications this transaction could have on our national security and on the Heartland’s agricultural economy.”

Representatives for Growmark didn’t respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment. 

Concerns Over Chinese Buying US Land

Lawmakers have expressed concern over the increasing number of companies from the Chinese communist regime purchasing U.S. land. Last year, 15 states passed laws to ban foreign adversaries from buying U.S. land. In December 2023, a group of 17 GOP governors wrote to the federal government and congressional leaders, urging them to take action to prevent the CCP from acquiring U.S. land.

There are some high-profile cases involving China buying U.S. land near sensitive military facilities. In 2021, the Chinese food company Fufeng purchased 370 acres of farmland to build a corn-milling plant near the Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota.

In 2016, Chinese company Guanghui Energy, owned by CCP-connected billionaire Sun Guangxin, bought roughly 132,000 acres of farmland in Del Rio, Texas, only 80 miles from Laughlin Air Force Base.
According to Department of Agriculture data, China owns nearly 384,000 acres of U.S. agricultural land, representing less than 1 percent of all U.S. agricultural land owned by foreign entities as of the end of 2021.

Notably, China’s ownership of U.S. agricultural land surged by 55 percent to 384,000 acres in 2021 from 247,000 acres in 2019, while during the 2016–19 period, the increase in China’s U.S. land ownership was less than 1 percent. In 2010, China owned only 13,720 acres.

In a separate move, on July 8, the Treasury Department issued a proposed rule to expand CFIUS’s jurisdiction to review land sales near more than 50 additional U.S. military sites across 30 states.
Aaron Pan is a reporter covering China and U.S. news. He graduated with a master's degree in finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo.