Clinton Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy advocates for ag oversight of foreign investment
WASHINGTON — A second Democrat agriculture secretary has endorsed the key provision of U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) Foreign Adversary Risk Management (FARM) Act. In a columnpublished earlier this week in Agri-Pulse, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy urged President Joe Biden to add the secretary of agriculture to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), the central idea proposed in Senator Tuberville’s FARM Act.
Espy, who served under President Bill Clinton, endorsed the idea just a few weeks after current USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack voiced his support for the proposal in a U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee hearing.
Senator Tuberville and U.S. Representative Ronny Jackson (R-TX-13) introduced the bipartisan, bicameral FARM Act earlier this year to protect America’s agricultural industry from improper foreign investment. Tuberville’s legislation would make agriculture a priority for federal oversight of foreign investment by adding the secretary of agriculture to CFIUS.
In the column, Secretary Espy writes:
“The upcoming farm bill is also an opportunity to strengthen our domestic agriculture industry. I would urge the President to consider adding the Secretaries of Agriculture and Health and Human Services as members of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews the sale of critical infrastructure to foreign entities. This may help the current and future Administrations to consider the security of our nation’s food and agriculture systems as a factor when determining to act to block foreign investment – especially from China.”
When reintroducing the FARM Act in January, Senator Tuberville said:
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen an alarming increase in foreign purchases of farm land and food companies, particularly by China. These foreign investments are now reaching every piece of the very large puzzle that makes up our agriculture industry, from farming and processing, to packaging and shipping. That’s why America’s agriculture community needs to have a permanent seat at the table when our government vets foreign investment in our country. Adding all parts of the agricultural supply chain to the list of transactions reviewed by CFIUS is the first step toward ensuring America’s agricultural suppliers can keep food on tables across the country.”
Over the past few years, the United States has experienced a rapid increase in foreign investment in the agricultural sector, particularly from China. Growing foreign investment in agriculture and other essential industries, like health care and energy, threaten our country’s national security and ability to survive. Our agricultural sector needs increased oversight and transparency to secure our country’s food supply.
The FARM Act is a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would ensure that CFIUS acknowledges the importance of our agricultural industry and agricultural supply chains for our nation’s safe and secure food supply.
CFIUS is authorized to oversee and review foreign investment and ownership in domestic businesses as it relates to national security. Currently, the Committee does not directly consider the needs of the agriculture industry when reviewing foreign investment and ownership in domestic businesses.
Specifically, the FARM Act would:
- Add the secretary of agriculture as a member to CFIUS.
- Protect the U.S. agriculture industry from foreign control through transactions, mergers, acquisitions, or agreements by designating agricultural supply chains as critical infrastructure and critical technologies.
- Require a report to Congress on current and potential foreign investments in the U.S. agricultural industry from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Original cosponsors of the FARM Act in the Senate include U.S. Senators Mike Braun (R-IN), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), and Rick Scott (R-FL).
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.