BISMARCK, ND (KFYR) – China was on the minds of many North Dakotans this week. So lawmakers today will hear bills related to foreign investment in the state.
Here’s a little recap from this week: On Monday, the Air Force determined that a proposed corn plant owned by a Chinese company in Grand Forks poses a serious threat to national security. A few days later, a Chinese spy balloon was spotted over Montana, and today the North Dakota Agriculture Committee heard three bills that would prevent future deals like the Grand Forks deals from happening again.
After an Air Force letter warning about the Fufeng project earlier this week, some North Dakotans say the state’s land should belong to the people of the state.
“When does it stop being North Dakota? When everybody buys it,” said Michael Coachman of Larimore.
That’s why three separate lawmakers have introduced three very similar bills that would ban purchases like the proposed Chinese corn plant in Grand Forks.
“I really don’t understand why any foreign government should buy farmland in North Dakota,” said Rep. Clemin, R-Bismarck.
One of them, HB 1356, would create a new state agricultural investment review board that would be the authority to decide whether proposed purchases are in the best interest of the state.
“Whether or not you think the project was a good idea, many of my constituents and North Dakotans have limited confidence in our federal government’s ability to objectively review projects,” said Rep. Bernie Satrom, R-Jamestown.
It is supported by several people, including the ag commissioner.
“I believe the board would be helpful and could have the ability to gather information and vet projects, then bring unbiased information back to the public instead of the speculation, fear and conspiracies that lead to public discussion,” Ag Commissioner Doug Gehring said.
However, the opponents of this project say that the creation of such a council will not solve the problem of foreign investment, because the people who sit on this council are the same people who currently control such investments.
“A lot of these same people that we’re bringing into this CFIUS North Dakota program were involved in the last scenario that we had in Grand Forks, and so that’s really what we need to do with our concerns and our interests. does not do,” said Travis Zablotny, a farmer from Minot.
The committee took no action on the bills today.
Interestingly, these bills were not brought to repeal the Fufeng agreement at Grand Forks, but to consider future applications by foreign parties. It was just a coincidence that the Air Force advised against the project this week.
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