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Corn milling plant project terminated in North Dakota

Grand Forks City Council voted 5-0 to not proceed with the development.

2 Lisa Selfie December 2020 Headshot

Officials in Grand Forks, North Dakota, have voted to strike down a Chinese company's proposed corn mill after the U.S. Air Force said its proximity to a military base would pose a national security risk.

On Tuesday, the Grand Forks City Council voted 5-0 to not proceed with the development.

The council voted to “no longer proceed” with the project “under the conditions of the approved and signed Fufeng USA Inc. Development Agreement.

Fufeng USA, a subsidiary of Fufeng, has been working since late 2021 to develop a 370-acre tract on the northern edge of Grand Forks to build a corn mill that would process as much as 25 million bushels of corn.

According to reports, Fufeng paid $2.3 million to purchase the 300 acres of land just 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, home to top secret drone technology. The company was planning to invest $700 million to open the mill.

When the facility was announced in 2021, there was excitement for the hundreds of new jobs that might come. Doubts about the plant began to multiply, however, and focused on its links to the Chinese government, concerns about the environment and frustration from future neighbors.

In November 2021, Fufeng Group chose Grand Forks for its first U.S.-based manufacturing facility.

Air Force: Corn mill presented a security risk

Last week, U.S. Air Force officials raised national security concerns in a letter released January 31,

The letter from Air Force leadership was addressed to North Dakota Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and noted the Grand Forks Air Force Base is the center of military activities related to both air and space operations.

The letter said "the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area."

The senators said in their response that the Air Force left ambiguity off the table when they said the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security.

"As we have recommended, we believe the city should discontinue the Fufeng project and instead we should work together to find an American company to develop the agriculture project," the senators said.

Both the mayor of Grand Forks and the governor of North Dakota agreed the project should be halted.

Brandon Bochenski, the mayor of Grand Forks city in North Dakota, issued a statement to the media asserting that the proposed corn mill project, “should be stopped."

“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,” he added.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum also supported the decision to stop the project.

"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," said Burgum.

Fufeng still owns the land where the corn mill would have been built. It's not known what the company will do with the 370 acres.

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