Forum Editorial: Fufeng Corn Mill Project in Grand Forks Requires Rigorous Safety Review – InForum

The proposed corn mill in Grand Forks has spilled a hornet’s nest of controversy and criticism that has divided the community and produced plenty of drama.

We confess that at first we thought that the speculations involving the project leader, the Chinese Fufeng Group, were exaggerated and possibly the result of hostility towards foreigners.

It seemed far-fetched that a wet corn mill might be able to spy on Grand Forks Air Force Base, located about 18 miles west of the city.

But it has become increasingly clear that these concerns are well-founded, and not the hysterical ramblings of those with wild imaginations.

CNBC reported that in April, a worried Air Force officer circulated a memo saying the plant, which was to be located on a 300-acre site, was fitting an alarming pattern of openings. commercial operations near Department of Defense facilities.

“Some of the most sensitive elements of Grand Forks exist with the digital uplinks and downlinks inherent in unmanned aerial systems and their interaction with space assets,” the Air Force Major wrote, according to CNBC. This collection of sensitive data “would present a costly national security risk, causing serious damage to the strategic advantages of the United States”.

Last month, Sen. Kevin Cramer, RN.D., and Sen. John Hoeven, RN.D., wrote Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense, and Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury, asking for a review federal, with security threats. in mind, of the proposed Fufeng corn mill. They were joined by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida.

“I’m worried about that because China has proven they’re both capable and more than willing to steal intellectual property, intercept data, and they’re very good at it,” Cramer recently explained. on Fox and Friends.

Grand Forks Air Force Base, he noted, has a wing that flies the Global Hawk, which performs intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. In addition, a new satellite ground station for low Earth orbit satellites at the base will soon provide communications from the sky.

We must not forget that the Grand Sky Business Park is a hub, with the Air Force as one of its partners, in fielding state-of-the-art unmanned aerial systems, including the technology from defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and is a major center for advanced drone applications – exactly the kind of technology the Chinese have shown themselves keen to steal.

Grand Forks city officials, who issued permits for the plant, played down concerns. Todd Feland, the city administrator, pointed out that a corn plant is very different from Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications company that has raised concerns by installing equipment on cell towers in the Midwest which, according to the responsible, could interfere with Department of Defense communications.

Well, yes – but a 2017 bid by the Chinese to build an ornate $100 million Oriental Garden, complete with temples, pavilions and a 70ft pagoda raised red flags when counterintelligence officials scrutinized the proposal, as CNN recently reported. The garden would have been located on one of the highest points in Washington, two miles from the United States Capitol – a perfect perch for wiretapping.

Federal officials quietly killed the garden. If something as innocuous as a garden could serve as a spy trojan, it should be obvious that a huge corn plant near an airbase and unmanned aerial systems center could. do the same.

Governor Doug Burgum recently became the latest to add his voice to those calling for a corn plant safety review “urgently.”

We would strongly emphasize a different emphasis: utmost thoroughness. We don’t urge bureaucrats to drag their feet, but the history of Chinese conduct demands rigorous, thorough, and deliberate federal scrutiny of the potential security threats posed by the plant.

As Ronald Reagan said, quoting a Russian proverb, “Trust but verify”.

Melvin B. Baillie