Senators pushing for review of Marfrig-National Beef deal

by Joel Crews
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WASHINGTON – In an effort to “safeguard the American food system,” a bipartisan group US senators is urging the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), to review and assess the ramifications of the announced plans by Marfrig Global Foods S.A. to acquire majority ownership in Kansas City, Missouri-based National Beef Packing Co. LLC.

Stabenow
Debbie Stabenow

A letter dated April 17, 2018, from members of the US Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry was sent to the CFIUS by the committee’s Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Among the requests, the letter urges CFIUS to consider the possible impact of another foreign investment in a US food company, citing the possible compromise to the security and safety of the American food supply chain as well as concerns about recent allegations of corruption in Brazil related to food safety standards.

“We are concerned that this proposed transaction comes following the 2017 corruption scandal in Brazil’s food safety system that revealed unacceptable safety and quality issues with Brazilian beef intended for the American market, including shipments from Marfrig,” the Senators wrote. “These issues ultimately resulted in the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service completely halting imports of fresh beef products from Brazil in June 2017.”

The Senators also asked the Treasury Department, which chairs the CFIUS, to start including the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in reviewing acquisitions of major US agriculture assets by foreign interests. To that end, Grassley and Stabenow introduced the Food Security is National Security Act of 2017 to allow permanent participation by top US agriculture and food agency officials in such reviews.

The letter mentioned previous acquisitions of US companies by foreign investors to make its point about the growing interest in US-based food companies by foreign interests.

“In light of recent acquisitions of US food and agriculture companies such as Smithfield by Shuanghui in 2013 and the acquisition of Syngenta by ChemChina in 2016, it has become increasingly clear that growing foreign investment in US agriculture requires a thorough review process to safeguard the American food system,” the Senators wrote.  

“The increasing trend of foreign investment in our food system should be met with careful scrutiny from the relevant experts in order to safeguard the security of our nation’s food supply.

“The security, safety, and resiliency of our food system is integral to the overall security of our nation,” wrote the Senators.

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