Economy

Republicans to spearhead oversight hearing on growing Chinese threat to US agriculture

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A top House panel is planning an oversight hearing to examine the threat China poses to the U.S. agriculture industry as part of broader efforts to curb foreign influence in the key strategic sector.

The hearing — titled ‘The Danger China Poses to American Agriculture’ — will be hosted by the House Agriculture Committee on March 20 and will cover a range of issues related to China’s involvement in the domestic agriculture sector. Notably, the hearing will include testimony from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, who has enacted aggressive limitations on foreign ownership of agricultural lands in her state.

‘It’s no secret that China poses significant threats to our way of life, agriculture is no exception,’ Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., said in a written statement to Fox News Digital.

‘We’ve seen China steal our intellectual property, hack our cyber infrastructure, and buy up American farmland,’ Thompson continued. ‘We will look to every available legislative vehicle, including the farm bill, to stop China in its tracks and strengthen our food and national security.’

According to the committee, the hearing will focus on various ways Chinese entities seek to influence the agricultural industry. In addition to China’s growing ownership of productive lands in the U.S., it will examine the intellectual property theft of patented seeds and how cyberattacks harm the industry.

Noem will testify during the hearing’s first panel alongside other officials, including Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis., who chairs the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party. A second expert panel will include testimony from Kip Tom, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.

Last week, Noem signed legislation prohibiting six foreign governments — China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and Venezuela — and associated entities from owning agricultural land in South Dakota. Her office explained at the time that the bill was one of her ‘top priorities.’

‘China is aggressively purchasing land and purchasing property close to our strategic national areas that will house our greatest weapons, and we are going to ensure that, in South Dakota, that never happens,’ Noem remarked at a bill signing event on March 4.

The House Agriculture Committee’s hearing comes shortly after the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a sprawling report earlier this year showing that the Department of Agriculture (USDA) has failed to consistently share timely data on foreign investments in U.S. agricultural land as required under the 1978 Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act.

The USDA’s most recent data suggests that, as of 2021, foreign investment in U.S. agricultural land grew to approximately 40 million acres. Additionally, Chinese agricultural investment in the U.S. increased tenfold between 2009 and 2016 alone. However, data on Chinese ownership since 2016 has yet to be released.

Additionally, in recent months, certain Chinese projects have received local and federal scrutiny. For example, officials in Grand Forks, North Dakota, rejected a Chinese company’s proposed corn mill over concerns about its proximity to a U.S. Air Force base in February 2023, and locals have pushed back against Chinese green energy firm Gotion High-Tech’s purchase of 270 acres of land in Michigan months later.

The Government Accountability Office conducted its review after Thompson and House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., led a letter alongside nearly 130 fellow House Republicans requesting such a probe in October 2022.

‘Growing foreign ownership of U.S. farmland, particularly by China, poses a direct threat to our food security and national security,’ Thompson and Comer said in a joint statement in January.

The USDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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