The Air Force is decidedly not thrilled about the Chinese-owned corn mill set to open near one of its bases in North Dakota.

In a letter dated January 27, Air Force Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics Andrew P. Hunter called the proposed Fufeng USA corn mill in Grand Forks, North Dakota “a significant threat to national security.”

Fufeng USA is a subsidiary of the Fufeng Group, a Chinese-owned agriculture company that has plenty of uses for corn. 

The proposed corn mill would be located about 12 miles from Grand Forks Air Force Base, where the 319th Reconnaissance Wing operates the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft.

The letter, which comes after North Dakota’s senate delegation met with the Air Force in December, 2022, was released publically on Tuesday. While the letter didn’t name any specific national security threats, it said that the corn mill raised both “near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area.”

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According to the Grand Forks Herald, the Air Force first learned about the project – it was apparently referred to only as “Project Peony” in the town’s economic development council meetings – when it was publically announced on November 6, 2021. 

Fufeng USA Chief Operation Officer Eric Churoturash has repeatedly denied that the mill would ever be used for any nefarious espionage purposes, only to process corn into industrial products. 

Resistance to the corn mill from the citizens of Grand Forks, and now the Air Force, has only increased since the project was announced.

As the letter states, the Air Force’s position on the threat posed by the corn mill is “unambiguous,” and both city and state politicians have taken that as a signal to shut down construction. 

“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,” Grand Forks mayor Brian Bochenski said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. “The only remedies the city has to meet this directive is to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits.” 

None of this is quite at the level of the Air Mobility Command commander predicting a war with China by 2025, but at least the corn mill threat is likely nullified — for now.  

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