Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Oct. 5 led the introduction of a bicameral and bipartisan bill to provide more agricultural leverage in foreign acquisition of U.S. companies.
Tuberville introduced the Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act to include the Secretary of Agriculture on the special government committee that approves foreign investment and ownership of businesses for national security, known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).
Tuberville, in a news release, said the pandemic has underscored the importance of agriculture to ensure the country remains food secure.
"Food security is national security, which is why the agriculture industry needs a seat at the table for the foreign investment vetting process. By adding agricultural supply chains as a covered transaction for CFIUS review, we can safeguard our food supply chains and agriculture industry from bad actors," Tuberville said.
Issues with CFIUS have come up in the past as lawmakers have complained about the lack of agricultural representation. Senators raised similar questions when Chinese-based WH Group bought Smithfield Foods, as well as when Germany-based Bayer bought Monsanto and ChemChina bought Syngenta. Still, CFIUS approved each of those acquisitions and it was unclear how much USDA was allowed to weigh in due to the secretive process CFIUS uses.
Beyond adding the secretary of Agriculture to CFIUS, the bill would add language to protect agriculture from foreign control through acquisitions and it would designate agricultural supply chains as critical infrastructure and technologies. The bill also would add a report to Congress on current and potential foreign investments in U.S. agriculture.
In the House, a pair of Texas congressmen, Rep. Filemon Vela, a Democrat, and Rep. Ronny Jackson, a Republican, both introduced a companion bill.
"Our food systems are vital to our national security and we must be vigilant to preserve their integrity," Vela said. "As we saw following the pandemic, food processing plants were forced to close and shipping routes for agricultural inputs were delayed. It disrupted the supply chains farmers use to get products from the farm to consumers, which contributed to declining food security in the United States. This bill increases federal scrutiny of foreign investments in U.S. industry that could undermine our agricultural supply chains by adding the Secretary of Agriculture to CFIUS and designating agricultural supply chains as key infrastructure under the CFIUS review process."
Jackson added, "Foreign interference in America's agriculture supply chain poses a serious national security threat, especially given that the worst proponent is the Chinese Communist Party. I represent the top-rated agriculture district in Texas, so protecting this vital industry and its overarching supply chains will always be among my top priorities in Congress. Our adversaries are working overtime to undermine American interests, and the FARM Act will be an important step to secure America's food supply by identifying and responding to inappropriate interference."
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