The Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman and Ranking Member last week joined a bipartisan group of Senators raising questions about government oversight of Smithfield Foods' international buyout agreement and future foreign acquisitions of American ag companies.
Smithfield announced May 29 it would enter into a merger agreement with Shuanghui International Holdings, Ltd., of China.
The acquisition will now undergo a national security review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. But Senators say an additional layer of oversight regarding food safety and the food supply should be included by adding the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration to the review process.
Senators made the request in a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who has the authority to add agencies to the review.
In the letter, senators said that the foreign purchase of such a significant American agricultural company—the largest acquisition of any American company by a Chinese company in history—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.
The senators questioned whether these sales are adequately reviewed to take into account American national security interests, uphold food safety standards, whether overall trends in foreign ownership of the American food supply are examined, and whether appropriate measures are in place to safeguard American intellectual property.
"We believe that our food supply is critical infrastructure that should be included in any reasonable person's definition of national security," the Senators' letter said.
"The United States has the safest, most efficient and reliable food supply in the world. It is one of our nation's great strengths, and we must ensure that it is preserved and protected."
The letter was signed by a bipartisan group of 15 Ag Committee Senators: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. William Cowan, D-Mass., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Michael Bennett, D-Colo., Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt., Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.