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CEO of Largest US Pork Producer Says Being Acquired by a China Has Led to ‘a Really Successful Relationship’

As federal and state legislators express increasing concern about Chinese ownership of American companies and land, one American company acquired a decade ago by a Chinese firm tried to push back this week.

Shane Smith, CEO of Smithfield Foods Inc., told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Tuesday of dealing with Chinese owners, “It’s been a really successful relationship.”

Chinese pork company WH Group Ltd. bought Smithfield, America’s largest producer of pork products, in 2013 for $4.7 billion.

Some lawmakers say that Chinese ownership of U.S. companies and real estate not only endanger the nation’s food supply, but also may provide access for China to spy on the U.S.

Smith, who has been CEO for two years, disputed those claims, praising WH Group for helping Smithfield increase production and sales as well as for hiring more U.S. workers.

“We’ve been able to collaborate on things like introducing an American-style bacon into China,” he told the Journal.

The company is looking to expand into other meat products at some unspecified time in the future, Smith said.

Smithfield, founded in 1936, already slaughters about 30 million pigs annually and distributes the results under its own name as well as the Armour, Farmland and Nathan’s Famous brands.

The purchase of the company by Chinese WH Group set off alarm bells in Washington 10 years ago, according to the Journal, but the deal was allowed to go through.

Now, however, with America’s relationship with China on a decidedly downward slope, similar concerns have resurfaced — with a vengeance.

“U.S. national-security officials have pointed to technology and equipment made in China or owned by Chinese companies that they warn could be used to carry out espionage, including Chinese-made cranes in U.S. ports,” the Journal reported. “Espionage concerns deepened last month after a suspected Chinese spy balloon was identified in U.S. airspace and shot down.”

China has since come to own about 350,000 acres of U.S. farmland — a total area amounting to a little larger than a third of the state of Rhode Island. About half of that amount consists of Smithfield-owner property, according to federal data cited by the Journal.

Some legislators have begun calling for prohibiting further sales of agricultural land to Chinese-owned companies.

“From purchasing fields and pastures to gobbling up companies like Smithfield, Chinese influence in American agriculture means that China’s needs, not America’s, come first,” Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton told the Journal in an emailed statement.

Smith said that since becoming CEO, he’s had to spend a lot of time meeting with D.C. officials about the issue.

“It’s a different environment than it was in 2013,” he said.

That difference, however, has nothing to do with Smithfield Foods, he claimed.

“We’re as American today as we were in 2013,” he told the Journal. “When you meet with politicians and have those discussions, they seem to understand that.”

READ 30 COMMENTS
  • sheila says:

    Every acre of land and every corporation owned by the CCP on American soil needs to be re-patriated IMMEDIATELY. That is exactly what any country that is being directly threatened by another country would do, and it’s what we the people must demand.

  • Wendy R says:

    This is why we stopped buying Smithfield products. Who knows what the CCP is putting in those products.

  • k says:

    “INTERESTING READ ESPECIALLY KNOWING WHAT COUNTRIES WHO OWN THE MOST ACRES U.S. AGRICULTRAL LAND.

    How Much U.S. Farmland Does China Really Own? More Than Bill Gates—And Less Than 17 Other Countries

    China owns roughly 384,000 acres of U.S. agricultural land, according to a 2021 report from the Department of Agriculture. Of that, 195,000 acres, worth almost $2 billion when purchased, are owned by 85 Chinese investors, which could be individuals, companies or the government. The other 189,000 acres were worth $235 million when purchased and are owned by 62 U.S. corporations with Chinese shareholders. Chinese agricultural land ownership only increased about 550 acres from 2015 to 2019. Then ownership jumped 30% from 2019 to 2020, from some 247,000 acres to roughly 352,000. U.S. companies with Chinese shareholders more than doubled their acreage that year, accounting for 102,000 acres of the growth. China acquired another 32,000 U.S. agricultural acres in 2021—not as much as they scooped up in 2020, but 98% higher than their combined growth between 2015 and 2019.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/emilywashburn/2023/03/01/how-much-us-farmland-does-china-really-own-more-than-bill-gates-and-less-than-17-other-countries/?sh=413234b1421f

    2) China Owns Little US Farmland, But Many Lawmakers Are Worried

    Meanwhile, farming advocates have warned that state lawmakers and members of Congress should pay closer attention to massive land purchases by domestic and foreign corporations, pensions, developers and other wealthy interests, which could block young people from getting into the farming business and, eventually, could threaten the United States’ food independence.

    The 14 states that currently restrict foreign ownership of agricultural lands have a patchwork of laws, according to the National Agricultural Law Center at the University of Arkansas. They came into being at various points in history, from the Revolutionary War era to the nation’s westward expansion in the late 19th century, through the World War II period and onward to today.

    https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2023/03/14/china-owns-little-us-farmland-but-many-lawmakers-are-worried

    According to a 2022 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Agriculture Statistics Service, there are 895,300,000 acres of farmland in the U.S.

    Gates owns roughly 242,000 acres, amounting to about 0.03% of the total.

    To put it into perspective, if all of Gates’ land was in one place, it would cover about 25% of Rhode Island.

    When further questioned to why he owns so much farmland, Gates responded: “I own less than 1/4000 of the farmland in the US. I have invested in these farms to make them more productive and create more jobs. There isn’t some grand scheme involved – in fact all these decisions are made by a professional investment team.”

    In his Reddit AMA last year, one user said, “What do you plan to do with all the farmland you have purchased?”

    Gates responded at the time, “My investment team bought the farmland. It is less than .1% of all US farmland because the ownership is so diverse. We invest in the farms to raise productivity. Some are near cities and might end up having other uses.”

    https://www.businessinsider.com/bill-gates-defends-farmland-purchases-there-isnt-some-grand-scheme-2023-1

  • Pissed off says:

    That should have never been allowed whatsoever 10 years ago or not it should have never been allowed like they should not be able to buy land in our country either whatsoever that shit needs to stop

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