Lucas Op-Ed Examines Effort to Bolster Food Security

Mar 21, 2024
Washington, D.C. – Yesterday, Agri-Pulse ran an Op-Ed by Congressman Frank Lucas on Congressional efforts to bolster food security against foreign adversaries. Specifically, he discussed his legislation that was recently signed into law that adds the Secretary of Agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the Untied States.

You can read the Op-Ed here or in its entirety below.
Congress Bolsters Food Security

As the House Agriculture Committee convenes this week to examine the threat China poses to the U.S. agricultural industry, it’s important to take a closer look at the steps underway to bolster our food security against foreign adversaries.

A resilient food supply is essential to national security, which is why the rise of foreign investments in our nation’s farmlands deserves increased scrutiny. We have seen how our geopolitical adversaries, China in particular, are eager to exploit vulnerabilities in critical supply chains. Investment from China poses unique risks to the U.S. economy, with the Chinese Communist Party exercising immense control and influence over Chinese-owned companies operating abroad.

Chinese-owned agricultural land rose from previous years to at least 349,442 acres in 2022. Foreign ownership of U.S. farmland and agricultural businesses has steadily increased over the past decade. A prominent example unfolded in late 2021, when a Chinese-based agribusiness, Fufeng Group, planned a significant investment near the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This sparked a local and national outcry that elevated the attention toward foreign adversaries investing U.S. agriculture.

Many have called for increased scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is the interagency committee that oversees the national security implications of foreign investment in the United States. While CFIUS updated its regulations to better address incidents like the Fufeng investment, there is consensus in Congress that not enough attention has been given to the national security implications of foreign adversaries in embedding themselves in the U.S. food supply chain. CFIUS is designed to safeguard U.S. national security interests by preventing geopolitical adversaries from gaining a considerable foothold in a critical sector.

Last month, the Agriculture Appropriations bill signed into law included an important change to enhance our ability to review transactions in the agriculture industry, including farmland and biotechnology.

The Appropriations package adds the Secretary of Agriculture to CFIUS, and requires the Committee be notified of any transaction that USDA deems to be a potential threat to national security. This is the first formal addition of a Cabinet Secretary since the Foreign Investment and National Security Act (FINSA) in 2007, which explicitly created a CFIUS process to block proposed foreign transactions.

During a House Agriculture Committee hearing earlier this year, USDA Secretary Vilsack discussed the implications of a permanent placement of the USDA Secretary on CFIUS, saying, “Being a permanent member would allow us to educate the other members of CFIUS what to look for and what to be sensitive to when it comes to agriculture and agricultural production.”

This addition recognizes that a national security framework that excludes Agriculture is incomplete. Giving the Secretary of Agriculture a statutory seat at the table at the Committee designed to respond to threats and vulnerabilities that arise from foreign investment is long-overdue. This added farm expertise is essential to appropriately determine if foreign transactions have implications for United States national security interests.

Americans have recognized that our food supply is an important component of U.S. national security throughout our history. The Dust Bowl of the 1930s that swept across the Great Plains forever changed Agricultural policy, and the mandated food rationing during the World War II effort was a phenomenon that economists continue to study. Congress and the public navigated through this challenging period with the enduring understanding that access to affordable food and essential nutrients is not guaranteed, and that agricultural policy and national defense are intertwined.

Today, by bringing agricultural concerns into the CFIUS fold, we take a critical step to underscore the fragility of food and the imperative to protect our farmers and ranchers.


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