Skip to main content

National Security Risk? Lawmakers Push Back as China Tries to Buy Land Near US Air Force Base

Share This article

Foreign ownership of American land is a hot-button issue these days, especially when it comes to China. The U.S. city that put this concern on the map is Grand Forks, North Dakota.

CBN News traveled there to take a closer look at the pushback against what could be seen as a national security risk.

Council Vote

"Motion carries unanimously." 


Cheers and shouts of "USA" erupted at a city council meeting earlier this year after Grand Forks council members voted to stop a $700 million Chinese-owned agricultural project.

"Ultimately, we saw quite a bit of pushback 'cause of the fact that it had some Chinese investment, and it was definitely a long road, a lot of ups and downs," Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski shared with CBN News.

He said that economically, the Fufeng USA proposed development "would have been phenomenal."

"It would have been a huge boon for our city – new high-paying jobs," he explained. "It would have helped out the farmers by having higher prices for their corn, a new market, obviously a massive amount of construction jobs, sales tax comes with that, property tax."

'National Security Concerns'

That economic glow faded sharply, however, after the U.S. Air Force weighed in. Fufeng USA is a subsidiary of "Fufeng Group Limited" based in China.

"We received a letter from the Air Force, saying that they have national security concerns, and at that point, the city took action to stop the project," Bochenski said.

The land at the heart of the controversy is around 370 acres in Grand Forks' agribusiness park. The Fufeng Group wanted to build a wet corn mill there.

The property is about 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

READ China Expands Influence in U.S. Backyard with Planned Military Training Facility in Cuba

Assistant Secretary of the Air Force Andrew Hunter wrote, "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 Grand Forks Air Force Base is home to military activities involving both air and space operations.

Critics' Concerns
"As soon as the Air Force came out and made that announcement, I think everybody in the community was on board," State Rep. Jared Hagert (R-Emerado, North Dakota) told CBN News. 

"And that's certainly where I was. I mean yeah I want to see the economic development, but if there is a risk of national security, I mean that's of the utmost importance," he continued.

***Please download the CBN News app to get special ALERTS on the latest news.***

Critics have raised concerns of espionage over allegations the Fufeng Group has direct ties to the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota did not mince words during an interview on Newsmax.

"If you look at the CEO, the president of Fufeng is in fact a very active member of the CCP, and he's received high recognition for being a model member of the CCP," Cramer said. "So it's not just one sort of fringe element; this really is very intertwined." 

READ  China Is Operating Illicit Police Stations Inside the US - Why Are They Still Allowed to Be Here?
While Fufeng officials deny the plant would be used for espionage, State Rep. Eric James Murphy (R-Grand Forks, North Dakota) had suspicions about the land purchase and supports the Air Force's assessment.

"I share their concern, right, I think the biggest thing is, you have to ask yourself, 'Why Grand Forks? Why not Fargo?' We're at the very northern edge of corn. Yeah, you get some corn, but the yield really starts going down the further north you go," Murphy shared with CBN News.

"There's some missions at our Air Force Base that aren't really publicized that are very, very, very, very important to our national security and are also very important to maintain the secrecy and the elements for them to be able to carry out those," he continued. 

"And it's all in the communications world," Murphy added.

Addressing Foreign Land Ownership

State legislatures have considered measures to address foreign ownership of U.S. land, especially after the high-profile Chinese spy balloon flew over the country earlier this year. In April, North Dakota took action, passing a law banning adversary nations from owning land in the state. 

"I think we have to be careful when we talk about foreign ownership, and so in North Dakota, we went to foreign adversaries, which is a federally defined list," explained Murphy.

"But we don't want to limit like countries like Canada; that's one of our biggest trade partners, especially for the state of North Dakota," State Sen. Scott Meyer (R-Grand Forks, North Dakota) told CBN News.

"So again, let's still work with our allies. Do I want them owning land? I think there's a reasonable discussion to be had with that," he continued.

"You're not seeing a whole lot of other countries come in and purchase this land, but China, Russia, Iran, those types of countries, I think we really should have issues with and never let them come into this area, buying some of our land," said Meyer.

Legislation Pushback

According to the Agriculture Department, Canada topped the list in 2021, owning 31 percent of all foreign-owned farming acreage.

As for China, not including the recent Fufeng Group purchase, the country owns nearly 384,000 acres, which amounts to about .9 percent of the total.

Still, lawmakers don't want that figure to grow. In a new bipartisan bill, U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Debbie Stabenow are pushing back against Chinese acquisition of U.S. farmland.

Also on the federal level, a proposed rule change would require foreign citizens and companies to get U.S. government approval to purchase property within 100 miles of eight military bases, including the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

People in Grand Forks are happy about this strong pushback.

"So I have friends and family that are in the Guard and have been in the military, and I just really felt like I was grateful they stopped it because I felt like it was a significant security threat, and I just was glad somebody in leadership like stood up and said, 'No, we need to take care of our people here in the U.S.," Grand Forks resident Marissa Stoner shared with CBN News.

READ  China's Big Brother 'Social Credit System' Now Tracks People in North America Too with Video Surveillance

MUST SEE  'The Perfect Police State': China's Digital Dictatorship Goes Global

***Please sign up for CBN Newsletters to make sure you receive the latest news from a distinctly Christian perspective.*** 

Share This article

About The Author


Mark Martin currently serves as a reporter and anchor at CBN News, reporting on all kinds of issues, from military matters to alternative fuels. Mark has reported internationally in the Middle East. He traveled to Bahrain and covered stories on the aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Dwight D. Eisenhower. Mark also anchors CBN News Midday on the CBN Newschannel and fills in on the anchor desk for CBN News' Newswatch and The 700 Club. Prior to CBN News, Mark worked at KFSM-TV, the CBS affiliate in Fort Smith, Arkansas. There he served as a weekend morning producer, before being promoted to general