A Chinese-owned corn mill that is slated to be built near a military base in North Dakota has recently been deemed a "significant threat to national security" by the United States Air Force after a small-town mayor brought the project to the attention of the federal agencies over a year ago, Fox News Digital reported.
Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski told the news outlet that he voiced concerns about security risks to the federal government 18 months ago regarding the proposed corn mill's proximity to a military base.
"It's been a long process," Bochenski said. "We initially reached out to the FBI, then the CFIUS (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) committee. They really came forth with a lackluster answer that left a lot of questions that needed to be answered."
"We were certainly surprised," Bochenski added. "We expected the federal government to do their job and do it quickly, and if they had concerns, communicate it to us."
After 16 months, the Air Force responded to Bochenski's concerns and requested that the city prevent the project from moving forward.
Last week, Air Force Assistant Secretary Andrew Hunter wrote a letter to state senators stating, "While [the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] concluded that it did not have jurisdiction, the Department's view is unambiguous: the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area."
The Fufeng Group, a Chinese-owned bio-fermentation products manufacturer, purchased 370 acres of land approximately 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base for $2.3 million. The company planned to invest $700 million to open a wet corn mill on the property.
"The federal government has requested the city's help in stopping the project as geo-political tensions have greatly increased since the initial announcement of the project," Bochenski said in a statement last week. "The only remedies the city has to meet this directive is to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits. As mayor of the city of Grand Forks, I am requesting these remedies be undertaken and the project be stopped, pending City Council approval."
The city council initially approved the proposed mill last year because members thought the development would help generate jobs and tax revenue. However, on Monday, city council members voted 5-0 to block the project.
Bochenski explained that the China-based company would still own the land, "but the federal government has also essentially asked us to stop them from building anything there."
According to the USDA, Chinese owners possess approximately $2 billion of agricultural land in the United States.
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