Sen. Elizabeth Warren objects to foreign-run farms in the U.S., Grassley says Smithfield purchase 'concerning'

Foreign-owned food production and agriculture companies have provoked the ire of U.S. lawmakers.

Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made clear her support of prohibiting foreign entities from owning farmland in the U.S.

“Right now, the farmland that is already in foreign ownership, if it were all put in one place, is the size of Virginia, and that not only creates a problem for farming communities and for our food security, it creates a threat to the safety and the defense of the United States of America,” Warren said at the Heartland Forum in Iowa in March, as reported by the Huffington Post.

In a statement on how she planned to fight foreign dominance in U.S. agriculture, she discussed her concerns about a few companies by name, one of which being Smithfield.

Smithfield Foods was established in Virginia and shares its name with the town in which it was started. Known for producing meat for roughly 93 years, Smithfield brands are ubiquitous in the U.S., but in 2013, the Chinese company Shuanghui International, now known as WH Group, bought Smithfield for $4.7 billion in an attempt to meet the growing demand for food in China.

China is no stranger to scandal when it comes to food safety, but that is not the only concern about the corporate takeover.

“No one can deny the unsafe tactics used by some Chinese food companies,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), in a 2013 press release. “And, to have a Chinese food company controlling a major U.S. meat supplier, without shareholder accountability, is a bit concerning. 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.”

Smithfield will likely never have any farms based in Iowa. The state passed a law that does not allow foreign-run farming operations. Warren not only applauds the law, but wants to make it a national standard. 

“[N]o foreign country should be able to purchase farmland in America,” said Warren in her proposal.

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