Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, a Republican and former NHL player, said with the city council’s approval, he would block the opening of the mill operated by Fufeng USA, an American subsidiary of a Chinese company.
“The federal government has requested the city’s help in stopping the project as geo-political tensions have greatly increased since the initial announcement of the project,” Bochenski said in a statement.
“The only remedies the city has to meet this directive is to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits. As mayor of the city of Grand Forks, I am requesting these remedies be undertaken and the project be stopped, pending City Council approval,” Bochenski continued.
Bochenski’s announcement followed a letter sent to Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) from the Air Force which detailed its concern about the project. The site of the proposed mill facility would be about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base.
The Republican senators had inquired about whether the mill would present any security concerns.
“[The] Department’s view is unambiguous: the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operation in the area,” a letter from the Air Force read.
North Dakota Republican Governor Doug Burgum said he supported the move to pull approval for the mill.
“As we said previously, our top priority is the security of our citizens and our nation,” he said in a statement. “Given these concerns, we support the decision by the City of Grand Forks to initiate steps to stop the project with Fufeng Group and will support the city in finding another partner for a corn milling operation.”
If approval for the project, which was initially given in July 2022, is pulled, Fufeng USA would still have ownership of the 370 acres that it had purchased for the project.
“It goes to show you that the people still have the ability to rise up and overcome. If they’d listened to us in the beginning, it would’ve saved them a year’s worth of time and a lot of money,” Ben Grzadzielewski, a Grand Forks resident, told The Epoch Times.
The issue of Chinese companies or operatives purchasing agricultural land in the U.S. has become a prominent focus of some lawmakers at both the federal and state level. Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) has introduced legislation to prohibit anyone linked to the Chinese Communist Party from buying farmland in the U.S., while Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has proposed a similar measure in the Sunshine State.