(NAFB)--A bipartisan group of Senate Ag Committee members - including Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran - are raising questions regarding government oversight of the proposed purchase of Smithfield Foods and future foreign acquisitions of American agriculture companies.
The Senators are urging Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew to include USDA and the Food and Drug Administration in the review of the proposed purchase of Smithfield so the oversight process includes experts on the American food supply and food safety. The proposed acquisition by Shuanghui International will undergo a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. The Treasury Secretary has the authority to add agencies to the review process. According to the Senators - the foreign purchase of such a significant American agricultural company raises a number of broader questions about how such transactions are reviewed and whether the appropriate authorities are evaluating risks and ensuring American interests are protected.
In a letter to Secretary Lew - the Senators say that the U.S. food supply is critical infrastructure that should be included in any reasonable person’s definition of national security. They not only suggest including USDA and FDA in any review of the transaction and designating USDA as one of the lead agencies - but that any review should look beyond any direct impact on government agencies and operations to the broader issues of food security, food safety and biosecurity. The letter goes on to state that the United States has the safest, most efficient and reliable food supply in the world. The Senators call it one of our nation’s great strengths - and write that we must ensure it is preserved and protected. According to the letter - the Agriculture Committee will further examine how the transaction is reviewed and how these transactions should be reviewed in the future.
In addition to Stabenow and Cochran - the letter is signed by Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Massachusetts Senator William Cowan, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Colorado Senator Michael Bennett, North Dakota Senator John Hoeven, Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont, Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana and North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp.