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Commentary: John R. Block Reports from Washington

“Food Security is National Security”

Hello, everybody out there in farm country.  This radio commentary is brought to you by the National Corn Growers Association, CropLife America, and Renewable Fuels Association.  They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America.  Thank you.

This is Randy Russell sitting in for my good friend Jack Block.

And now today’s commentary.

Two recent events have gotten little attention in the national press, but could have a profound impact on U.S. agriculture, the economy, and our national security. The first involves a recent study put out by Virginia Tech, which showed that agriculture’s annual productivity rate over the last ten years increased by only 1.1%. Experts suggest the U.S. must average annual productivity gains of at least 1.7% in order to help feed the world’s expected population of 9.5 billion by 2050.

This should be a wake-up call to our federal policymakers. It is time for Congress to make agriculture research a national priority. Basic agriculture research is the seed corn of our future productivity growth. The 2023 Farm Bill provides Congress the opportunity to address the agriculture productivity challenge by significantly bolstering basic agriculture research. It is time for Congress to act with a bold new investment in the seed corn of our great industry.

The other event that caught my eye is the recent purchase of 300 acres of land by the China-based Fufeng Group near Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Fufeng Group is a large agriculture company with alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party. Fufeng has stated they purchased the land to build a corn wet mill. My question is why Grand Forks, North Dakota? Might it just be that Grand Forks and the surrounding eastern North Dakota house 150 intercontinental ballistic missiles –so called ICBM’s–representing nearly 40% of the U.S. arsenal?. ICBM’s can fly over 3,400 miles and form a cornerstone of the U.S. nuclear capability. It is exactly for this reason that North Dakota Senators John Hoeven and Kevin Kramer have asked for a full U.S. Government review of the national security implications of the project. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner and Ranking Member Marco Rubio have also raised strong concerns with the Fufeng project. Do we think a U.S. agribusiness company would be allowed to build a similar milling operation anywhere near a Chinese military base?

Again, the 2023 Farm Bill gives Congress the chance to greatly strengthen oversight and reporting of foreign ownership of U.S. agriculturally related assets, with a particular focus on China. To this end, the Secretary of Agriculture should be made a permanent member of the federal government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. CFIUS reviews all foreign acquisitions from a national security perspective. In addition, the 1978 law which requires disclosure of foreign ownership of U.S. farmland needs to be greatly strengthened and broadened to include not just farmland, but all agriculturally related assets.

One final thought: the preamble of every recent Farm Bill talks about the need to preserve and protect the family farm. No one can argue against this. But there is now a higher objective. With supply chain disruptions and growing security threats from countries like China, it should be clear to every American: food security is national security. Sounds like a pretty good mission statement for the 2023 Farm Bill.

This is Randy Russell reporting from Washington.

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The views expressed in this editorial are those of the writer and not necessarily those of nor the Southern Farm Network.