Legislation Would Increase Scrutiny of Foreign Investment in Ag

USDA ( MGN Image )

Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the Agricultural Security Risk Review Act, legislation that would formally add the USDA Secretary as a member of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). 

The Agricultural Security Risk Review Act ensures that CFIUS operates effectively and efficiently to determine if a transaction, including agricultural, threatens to impair U.S. national security. 

“With bad actors like China, who already have a track record of manipulating strategic acquisitions to benefit themselves, it is our duty here in Congress to protect America’s national security, including threats to our food supply,” Inhofe said in a release.

CFIUS investigates if a foreign investment impacts national security. Protecting our nation’s food supply is critical to maintaining national security. Adding the Secretary of Agriculture would include USDA in these decisions and strengthen the security of America’s agricultural system, Tillis explained in a release.

Nine members comprise CFIUS, chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, and includes the Secretaries of State, Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce, and Energy, the United States Trade Representative, the Attorney General, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

CFIUS members informally screen proposed foreign investments into the U.S. before launching a formal review. In order for USDA to be included in investigations, the Secretary of the Treasury must designate USDA as a part of the review. Otherwise, USDA is not part of the review process and is not consulted in the CFIUS recommendation to the President. 

“Foreign ownership of U.S. farmland and agricultural businesses has steadily increased. The growing concentration of foreign investment in the U.S. agricultural sector should necessitate that expert analysis of this sector be available to the Committee,” the release said. “CFIUS has the authority to review food and agricultural transactions to ensure the safety and resiliency of U.S. food supply but lacks the agricultural expertise of USDA in the review process.” 

Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) also introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives. 

“The American people have seen firsthand how great the need for increased oversight of foreign investment in our nation’s food supply chain is during the COVID-19 pandemic. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and the Senate to get this bill passed and signed into law,” Lucas said in the release.

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