Four senators have introduced legislation that would give top U.S. agriculture and food officials permanent representation on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). CFIUS is a panel of government officials tasked with reviewing proposed mergers and acquisitions of U.S. companies, specifically those initiated by foreign entities, to assess whether the transaction could threaten U.S. national security interests.
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Food Security is National Security Act, which will include 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.
The Food Security is National Security Act would grant permanent representation on CFIUS to both the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), which oversees the Food and Drug Administration. Currently, CFIUS does not include permanent representation from the USDA or HHS, the two agencies with primary responsibility for safeguarding the integrity, resiliency and quality of the nation’s food supply.
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.
The AFBF, alongside the National Farmers Union, supports the Food Security is National Security Act.
“The challenges presented by the pandemic and world supply chain issues have driven home agriculture’s ties to national security,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a statement. “Monitoring and evaluating mergers and acquisitions, as well as who contributes to our food production and distribution, is critical. The Secretary of Agriculture understands that, and he would bring a much-needed perspective to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.”