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Illinois representatives are concered over Chinese purchase of grain facility
 
By TIM ALEXANDER
Illinois Correspondent

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The recent acquisition of a Cahokia, Ill., grain trading facility by a company aligned with COFCO, China’s largest state-owned food processor and grain dealer, is under the scrutiny of federal lawmakers. 
The issue began when Growmark sold its minority interest in the Cahokia grain trading facility to COFCO. In a parallel deal, Growmark acquired the majority ownership of B-House, which is known as one of the most influential grain warehouses and distribution centers in the country due to its association with the nearby Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME). The B-House storage facility had been majority Chinese-owned since its 2017 construction, but with its recent purchase by Growmark the facility, now renamed Lakeside Grain Trading, is in the hands of a U.S. company for the first time.
Representatives Mike Bost (IL-12) and Nikki Budzinski (IL-13) sent a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, chair of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., in protest of COFCO’s acquisition of Cahokia Grain.
“China is attempting to buy up America’s commercial infrastructure and farmland at a breakneck pace. The economic and national security implications are far too great to allow that to happen,” said Bost. “This is an issue that should resonate with Republicans and Democrats alike. Rep. Budzinski and I are demanding a timely review of this transfer because federal officials need to understand how it will impact the safety and security of the American people, especially here in Southern Illinois.”
Added Budzinski: “As the Chinese Communist Party tries to strengthen its grip on the means of American agricultural production and commerce, we must push back. Today, Congressman Mike Bost and I sent a letter to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States raising our concerns about the Chinese government’s acquisition of the Cahokia Heights grain terminal. I urge the committee to take a serious look at the scope and implications this transaction could have on our national security and on the Heartland’s agricultural economy.” 
COFCO (Chinese Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation) is one of the largest food-processing companies in the world. Its acquisition of the Cahokia facility increases its U.S. holdings to include a facility with Mississippi River access, six truck receiving lanes, a railroad loop track spanning 34,500 feet with two rail pits, and two 1,600 tons-per-hour barge loading belts serving two barge loading docks.
“We plan to continue investing in our U.S. business, and we intend to pursue additional opportunities focused on supporting our U.S. Gulf and Pacific Northwest export strategy,” said Zhijun (Jerry) Shi, chief operating officer G&O for COFCO International in North America.
DTN reported that 15 states passed bills during 2023 banning or limiting people from certain countries — mainly China, Russia, Iran and North Korea — from buying land in their states. More bills were introduced in 2024, including at least one in Illinois.
In March of this year, the House Committee on Agriculture convened a hearing during which lawmakers highlighted the need to reduce China’s agricultural footprint in the U.S. Some joined South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in calling for greater efforts in restricting the ability of China and other foreign adversaries to buy U.S. agricultural land or assets. 
The sale of the Cahokia facility to the Chinese company — and the reaction of lawmakers — has thrust the issue of foreign-owned U.S. agricultural assets back into the spotlight on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. 
Matt Lurkins, vice president of grain and strategic relationships for Growmark, made no mention of the potential conflict in a news release announcing the exchange. He said the Lakeside Grain facility, located on the Calumet River in Chicago, can accommodate lake vessels and larger ships to further diversify the cooperative’s fleet of marketing options for grain including Class 1 rail, barges and trucks. 
“This transaction reflects Growmark’s commitment to increasing farmers’ profitability while strengthening its presence along strategic waterways and ports throughout the Midwest,” he said. “Growmark is a farmer-owned cooperative. That means the farmers growing the grain that gets traded through B-House will now get to participate in the returns generated from this link of the supply chain. We are excited to add B-House to our portfolio of cooperatively owned grain assets.”
The purchase of Lakeside Grain Trading, or B-House, will add 11.5 million bushels of storage capacity to Growmark’s grain operations.
7/3/2024