Air Force sounds alarm about Chinese land buy on doorstep of key air, space base in North Dakota

Fufeng Group's purchase of 370 acres of land to build corn factory 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base is "a significant threat to national security" in both near and long term, assistant secretary of the Air Force warned in letters to host state senators.

Published: February 1, 2023 11:03am

Updated: February 3, 2023 2:49pm

Amid growing bipartisan support in Congress for a brawnier, more security-conscious U.S. stance toward China, the United States Air Force is sounding the alarm on a Chinese food manufacturer's plan to build a corn factory in close proximity to Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, a key hub of military air and space operations. 

"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," Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Andrew P. Hunter wrote to North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven in a Jan. 27 letter.

Hunter wrote in response to the lawmaker's request for the department's view of the "national security implications" of the Fufeng Group's purchase of 370 acres of land to construct a wet corn milling plant a mere 12 miles from the air base.  

The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) ducked responsibility for a decision on the Chinese land grab on the doorstep of a U.S. air and space base, Hunter hinted in his letter, a version of which went to North Dakota's other senator, Kevin Cramer, also a Republican.

Noting that the interagency committee charged with reviewing the national security implications of certain foreign investments and land purchases "considered an October 22 filing by the Fufeng Group to acquire certain assets" in the vicinity of the base, Hunter said, "While CFIUS concluded that it did not have jurisdiction, the [Air Force] Department's view is unambiguous."

In a joint statement on Tuesday, Hoeven and Kramer echoed Air Force concerns about the security risks posed by the project. 

“City leaders have asked for clarity from leaders in the federal government regarding the Fufeng project," said the two lawmakers. "As we have recommended, we believe the city should discontinue the Fufeng project and instead we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project."

Frustrated by federal foot-dragging, Grand Forks Republican Mayor Brandon Bochenski announced Tuesday he will seek City Council concurrence to use local authority to halt the project directly.

"The response from the Federal Government during this process can only be viewed as slow and contradictory," lamented the retired NHL player, citing the long and ultimately inconclusive review of the project by the CFIUS.

"The only remedies the City has to [block the Fufeng project are] to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits," said Bochenski. "As Mayor of the City of Grand Forks, I am requesting these remedies be undertaken and the Project be stopped, pending City Council approval."

North Dakota's senators are two voices in a growing backlash among elected officials suspicious of Chinese motives and methods in buying up land in the U.S.

"My view on the — our economy in Florida is, you know, we don't want to have holdings by hostile nations," Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a press conference earlier this month.

"If you look at the Chinese Communist Party, they've been very active throughout the Western Hemisphere in gobbling up land and investing in different things," he said, according to the Epoch Times. "And, you know, when they have interests that are opposed to ours, and you've seen how they've wielded their authority ... it is not in the best interests of Florida to have the Chinese Communist Party owning farmland, owning land close to military bases."

Enforcement measures against Bejing's accumulation of U.S. land must be broad enough to thwart the Chinese practice of using surrogates for such transactions, DeSantis emphasized.

"The issue is going to be, obviously, if someone comes in and buys, it's not the CCP that’s signing that," he said. "These are holding companies ... So you have to structure that in a way that will effectively police it. ... We do not need to have CCP influence in Florida's economy.

Just The News reached out to Fufeng USA for comment but has received no reply. 

Danielle Hopes contributed to this report.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NGivasDC

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