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Stabenow, Grassley, Tester and Ernst Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Protect American Agricultural Interests In Foreign Acquisitions

WASHINGTON – Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) along with their colleagues, Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), introduced legislation to give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The bipartisan Food Security is National Security Act will also include new agriculture and food-related criteria for CFIUS to consider when reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company.

 “Our national security depends on a food system that is safe, secure, and resilient,” Stabenow said. “As foreign entities continue their acquisitions of U.S. food and agriculture companies, American farmers and families deserve to know these transactions receive proper scrutiny. This bill ensures that the U.S. has the appropriate tools and people in place to safeguard America’s food security, food safety, biosecurity, and the highly competitive U.S. farm sector as a whole.” Stabenow, Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said.  

“As we think about the future and the growing global population, it’s important to consider our nation’s food supply. With foreign investments from around the world going to American farmland and agricultural companies that are critical to the nation’s supply chain it’s important that we provide adequate oversight into these investments,” Grassley said. “Agriculture plays an essential role in national security. As we continue to compete in a global economy and our national security strategy continues to evolve, it’s important to have representation of agricultural interests on CFIUS.”

“Montanans know that food security is national security, and it’s essential that folks here at home have oversight over our food supply to make sure we aren’t getting manipulated by foreign companies,” Tester said. “This legislation will help ensure that foreign investments in American agriculture are thoroughly vetted so we can protect our producers and consumers, and it will prevent bad actors from calling the shots when it comes to our nation’s supply chain.”  

“Foreign acquisitions of Iowa and U.S.-based food and agriculture companies, especially by Communist China, threaten the integrity of our food supply and the security of our nation. Now more than ever, with supply chain disruptions continuing to impact Iowans and Americans across the country, we need to do more to protect our food and ag systems from being manipulated by bad actors abroad. That’s why I’m backing this effort to scrutinize foreign investments in American agricultural assets and help safeguard our homeland,” Ernst, a combat veteran and member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said.

CFIUS is a panel of government officials tasked with reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign entities. The job of CFIUS is to assess whether transactions initiated by foreign entities could threaten U.S. national security interests. Currently, CFIUS does not include permanent representation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the two agencies with primary responsibility for safeguarding the integrity, resiliency and quality of the nation’s food supply.

The Food Security is National Security Act recognizes that agricultural and food security is vital to national security and the global economy. To protect U.S. food security, the legislation grants permanent representation on CFIUS to both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of HHS, which oversees the Food and Drug Administration.

The legislation also adds new criteria to the CFIUS review process to ensure that proposed transactions are reviewed specifically for their potential impact on American food and agricultural systems, including availability of, access to, or safety and quality of food. Specifically including food and agriculture in the review process is an important national security safeguard and sends a strong signal to potential foreign purchasers.

Key agriculture stakeholders also understand the importance of bringing an agricultural perspective to the CFIUS review process. Two of the largest farm organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, support the Food Security is National Security Act, echoing the call to evaluate the potential effects of mergers and acquisitions in agriculture.

“The challenges presented by the pandemic and world supply chain issues have driven home agriculture’s ties to national security. Monitoring and evaluating mergers and acquisitions, as well as who contributes to our food production and distribution, is critical. The Secretary of Agriculture understands that, and he would bring a much-needed perspective to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said.

“In the past decade, there has been an alarming amount of investment from foreign governments and companies in U.S. agriculture,” National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said. “Amidst rising consolidation in our domestic food and agriculture system, these mergers and acquisitions pose a heightened threat to our food security. NFU appreciates the introduction of this commonsense legislation to bring greater scrutiny to these foreign investments, and to help safeguard America’s food supply.”