China’s influence on the U.S. agriculture industry has become a heightened concern, particularly in the aftermath of a Chinese spy craft flying across the country earlier this year.
“We definitely need to be worried about Chinese investment into our agricultural sector,” Gatestone Institute senior fellow and China expert Gordon Chang said Wednesday on ” Mornings with Maria .” “You remember a couple of years ago, China was sending in invasive species seeds into the United States, unsolicited. Now, if the Chinese were to own more and more agriculture, they could very well plant those seeds and actually blight America’s food production.”
The surveillance aircraft’s dayslong flight across the country in February re-energized concerns among experts and lawmakers over China’s ongoing efforts to buy land across the U.S., with some voices observing a pattern of suspected espionage activities near American military sites.
As of this month, 11 states have considered banning Chinese investments into U.S. farmland with four states — Arkansas, Idaho, Utah and Virginia — passing restrictions. Lawmakers in North Dakota and Montana have also passed bans to protect national security.
North Carolina, however, may join that list after the world’s largest pork producer with operations across Hog Country has come under new scrutiny for ties to a Chinese company.
Smithfield Foods, headquartered in Smithfield, Va., was acquired 10 years ago by WH Group, a Chinese meat and food processing company.
Sources revealed that there are numerous concerns over national security with the acquisition, especially given the increasingly tense relations between China and the U.S. The deal was financed by the Bank of China, which is the Chinese Communist Party’s government-backed bank. Another concern was China’s national intelligence laws, which require all Chinese citizens and entities to cooperate with the communist country’s authorities.
FOX Business’ Lydia Hu reported that many national security experts, including the former adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, fear the deal has left Smithfield “vulnerable.”
The pork and meat producer, however, has denied any notion that the Chinese Communist Party has an influence over their company.
Smithfield defended its position, highlighting it employs 40,000 workers, owns 500 U.S. farms and works with more than 2,000 local hog farmers. In addition, the company estimates only 30% of its pork product is exported back to China annually.
“If you look at the investment in Smithfield from our parent company WH Group, over the last 10 years, our U.S. employment has grown,” Smithfield Foods Vice President Jim Monroe told Hu. “Our profitability has grown steadily. Their investment in capital projects to improve our farms, our manufacturing platform, all of those things have improved. That’s good for U.S. agriculture.”
When asked about a “contingency plan” should China and the U.S. ever engage in conflict, Smithfield declined to speculate.
Questions remain about what could happen to America’s pork production and thousands of jobs if there were a conflict between the two nations.
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