After Chinese Spy Balloon, Tester Presses for Answers on Farmland Purchases by Foreign Adversaries at Senate Banking Committee Hearing

Tester: “The balloon should have been a wakeup call for us”

Continuing his fight to defend America’s food supply and national security, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) pressed experts for answers at a Senate Banking Committee hearing about how the federal government tracks foreign investment in American farmland and agribusiness, and how Congress can best prevent American farmland purchases by our foreign adversaries.

“I don’t think China, North Korea, Russia, or Iran gives a damn whether we exist or not,” said Tester. “So why should we allow them entrance into our country?” 

Tester emphasized that the Chinese spy balloon’s incursion on U.S. airspace added to the importance of addressing this issue: “The balloon should have been a wakeup call for us, it really should have been. Because the truth is if they own land where I live, which as the crow flies is probably 60 miles from the nearest [missile] silo, I would say that’s of concern to me.”

Tester concluded by stressing the importance of working alongside the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. (CFIUS) and other experts to most effectively prevent foreign adversaries from buying American farmland: “I hope you work with us to make this workable. I know it’s going to be complicated and I know that people are going to say this can’t be done, but I think this is a huge issue. I think this is a huge national security issue. And I don’t think we should be allowing countries who don’t give a damn whether we exist or not to own land, whether it’s farmland or agribusiness, in this country. They’re not our friends, they’re not here to do us good things.”

Last month, Tester teamed up with U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to introduce the bipartisan Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act, legislation aimed at preventing China, Russia, Iran and North Korea from investing in, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring U.S. farmland or businesses involved in U.S. agriculture.

In addition to protecting American agricultural land from foreign entities, the PASS Act would add the Secretary of Agriculture as a standing member of (CFIUS) to consider agriculture needs when making determinations affecting national security, and require a report to Congress from USDA on the risks posed by foreign takeovers of U.S. businesses engaged in agriculture.

As the only working farmer in the U.S. Senate, Tester has long been an advocate for increased market transparency and a stronger food supply system. During a Senate Banking Committee hearing last year, Tester pushed for answers about how the federal government tracks foreign investment in American farmland and agribusiness.