WASHINGTON – Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), along with Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), reintroduced legislation to protect U.S. agricultural interests facing foreign acquisition. The bipartisan Food Security is National Security Act gives top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). It would 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.
“As our Iowa farmers know firsthand, food security is national security. 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. More must be done to protect our food and ag systems from being manipulated by malign actors. I’m working to provide critical oversight to scrutinize foreign investments in American agricultural assets and help safeguard our homeland,” Ernst said.
“From farmland to food production companies, the growing trend in foreign investment in America’s food supply chain rightly has many Americans concerned. The government has already recognized the need to closely examine foreign interests in critical American industries to safeguard our national security. What can be more essential to American security than protecting access to a safe and abundant home-grown food supply? Including agricultural considerations to CFIUS is just common sense,” Grassley said.
CFIUS is a panel of government officials tasked with reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign entities. It’s tasked with assessing 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.