Everyone should be concerned about China’s growing leverage over the U.S. agricultural industry, and the accompanying national security risks. While we’ve been focused on Chinese land purchases near our military bases, it’s high time we discuss the implications of China’s influence on our food security.
Representative Dan Newhouse (R-WA) has expressed his concerns over Chinese ownership of U.S. farmland, emphasizing that control over any link in our food supply chain could become a vulnerability in the future. Daleep Singh, former deputy national security adviser for international economics on the Biden National Security Council, agrees, stating that food security is both an economic and national security issue.
Despite some experts claiming that China’s land holdings in the U.S. are too small to threaten food shortages, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has argued that foreign ownership of U.S. farmland poses a significant risk to food security. He points out that nearly half of U.S. farmland is owned by people aged 65 or older, with nearly 100 million acres expected to change ownership over the next decade – a red flag that Congress needs to address.
To tackle this issue, Sen. Grassley proposed the “Food Security is National Security Act” in 2021, which aims to add the secretary of agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. This panel would focus on transactions, such as Chinese land purchases, which could threaten U.S. national security.
Aside from the risk of China exporting too much American-grown food, there are other food security concerns arising from foreign entities buying agricultural land and converting it to other uses. For example, foreign companies have bought up farmland and leased it out for wind turbines, cutting down on food production and disrupting local markets.
According to the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China is seeking leverage over U.S. agriculture. Unable to solve its own food security problems, China has turned to other countries for agricultural resources, investments, and acquisitions. The commission warns that if further consolidations and Chinese investments in U.S. agricultural assets occur, China may gain undue leverage over U.S. supply chains.
Moreover, there are concerns about China’s access to U.S. agricultural intellectual property. China could use this information to erode U.S. competitiveness in agricultural technology and discover vulnerabilities in U.S. crops. Additionally, China’s illicit acquisitions of genetically-modified seeds could provide a jumpstart to their own development and deprive U.S. companies of revenue.
“The more nefarious route, the commission noted, could involve Chinese scientists experimenting on the American-made seed formulas until they turn those seeds into weapons to wipe out U.S. crops. ‘The potential weaponization of genetically-modified organisms, like genetically-modified seeds, also poses a threat to U.S. economic and food security, which could be at risk if genetically-modified seed code is used to create a bioweapon,’ the commission added.”
FBI Director Christopher Wray has also voiced his concerns over Chinese theft and meddling in U.S. affairs. He specifically mentioned agriculture as a target sector, with Chinese scientists stealing U.S. agricultural IP and technology rather than developing them themselves. This theft could enable Chinese agribusinesses to undercut U.S. competitors on international seed markets.
It’s clear that China’s influence on U.S. agriculture raises some serious national security concerns, and it’s time for our government to take action to protect our food security and supply chains. Let’s make sure we address this issue before it’s too late.