When China’s Shuanghui International Holdings purchased Smithfield Foods in 2013, experts showed concerns about how the deal would affect national security.
At the time, 15 lawmakers, including Agriculture Committee Chairwoman U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), called for the national security panel to review the deal between Smithfield and Shuanghui, which changed its name to WH Group in 2014.
According to a USA Today article written in 2013, the lawmakers said food supply is critical infrastructure that should be included in the definition of national security.
In a proposal written in March, presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) addressed the same concerns raised in 2013.
Warren said foreign governments and companies must be stopped from buying up American farmland because it threatens national security.
“Foreign companies and countries like China and Saudi Arabia already own 25 million acres of American farmland,” Warren wrote. “That’s about the size of Virginia. And one in four American hogs has a Chinese owner. That jeopardizes our food security, which threatens our national security too.”
Warren said Iowa recently passed a law prohibiting foreign individuals or entities from purchasing farmland for the purpose of farming.
Warren said she supports a national version of that law, and as president, “will use all available tools to restrict foreign ownership of American agriculture companies and farmland.”
“I’m committed to stronger beneficial ownership laws so that foreign purchasers can’t set up fake American buyers to get around these restrictions,” Warren said.
In 2013, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also said the Smithfield deal could affect national security.
“I’ve always said that we are nine meals away from a revolution, so a safe and sustainable food supply is critical to national security,” Grassley said in a 2013 press release. “How might this deal impact our national security? What role does the Chinese government play in Shuanghui, like it does in so many other ‘private’ companies?”
Warren said Congress repealed mandatory country-of-origin labeling for beef and pork in 2015 after a series of World Trade Organization challenges from Canada and Mexico, and it hasn’t established a new rule to protect American farmers.
“The result is that beef and pork can be given a U.S. origin label if it is processed in the United States — even if the animals are not born and raised here,” Warren said in her proposal. “This misleads consumers looking for American-grown meat and undermines American beef and pork producers.”