Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect U.S. Agricultural Interests in Foreign Acquisitions

Senators Introduce Legislation to Protect U.S. Agricultural Interests in Foreign Acquisitions

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced new bipartisan legislation on March 14 to give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).

March 15, 2017

U.S. Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced new bipartisan legislation on March 14 to give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The proposed “Food Security is National Security Act of 2017” also includes new agriculture and food-related criteria for CFIUS to consider when reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign company.

“As we think about the future and the growing global population, it’s important to consider who will control the food supply. Today, there may not be a food shortage in the world, only distribution problems that are more the result of politics not logistics. In the decades to come, it may be a different story,” Grassley said. “The approval by CFIUS of the sale of U.S. agricultural assets seem more focused on the present state of the food industry instead of the future supply situation. We owe it to our farmers and Americans who rely on farmers to grow their food to be more strategic. Especially as countries around the world are making moves to ensure adequate supplies.”

“Protecting the integrity, safety, and resiliency of America’s food system is core to our national security,” Stabenow said. “As foreign entities continue their aggressive acquisitions of U.S. food and agriculture companies, it’s imperative that these transactions face additional scrutiny. This bill ensures that the U.S. has the appropriate tools and people in place to safeguard America’s food security, food safety, biosecurity, and the highly competitive U.S. farm sector as a whole.”

CFIUS is a panel of government officials tasked with reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions of U.S. companies, including foreign entities seeking to purchase U.S. agricultural and food assets. The job of CFIUS is to assess whether or not transactions initiated by foreign entities threaten to impair U.S. national security interests. Currently, CFIUS does not include permanent representation from USDA or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services—the two departments of government with primary responsibility for safeguarding the integrity, resiliency, and quality of our food supply.

Recognizing the contribution agriculture makes to the country’s national security and the role it plays in the economy, the act is intended to give both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (who oversees FDA) permanent representation on CFIUS to protect U.S. food security.

The legislation also adds new criteria to the CFIUS review process to ensure that proposed transactions are reviewed specifically for their potential impact on American food and agricultural systems, including availability of, access to, or safety and quality of food. Specifically including food and agriculture in the review process is an important national security safeguard and sends a strong signal to potential foreign purchasers.

Two of the largest farm organizations, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union, support the Food Security is National Security Act of 2017, echoing the call to evaluate the potential effects of mergers and acquisitions in agriculture.