(NewsNation) — The residents of Grand Forks, North Dakota, hailed the rejection of a controversial corn mill proposed by a China-based company as a victory for the town, days after a supposed Chinese surveillance balloon crossed the country and was shot down over the Atlantic Ocean.
Last July, a China-based food producer called Fufeng Group purchased 300 acres of land in the Midwest farmlands of Grand Forks and was seeking approval to build the mill in Monday’s city council meeting.
This project site was situated about 12 miles from the Grand Forks Air Force Base. One Air Force official, in a Jan. 27 letter to two North Dakota senators, said the project “presents a significant threat to national security.”
The local city council voted unanimously to end the project at a meeting Monday night. Residents determined to keep the Fufeng corn mill out of their city packed the meeting room to voice opposition they said has been brewing for months.
“It is just common sense,” said life-long resident Ben Grzadzielewski. “You read about what China does in the world. They are not shy about what their intentions are. They want to take over everything.”
Residents felt like they had been ignored for months, saying they were outraged when Fufeng first came to North Dakota.
During a heated public comment portion of Monday’s meeting, residents hurdled contempt at the council, claiming they “sold us out to China,” calling the council’s dealings with Fufeng an “embarrassment.”
The same day of the vote, U.S. Navy crews pulled the remains of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon out of the water just off the coast of Myrtle Beach. Chinese officials called the U.S.’s handling of the situation an “overreaction.”
More than 1,500 miles away, the vote to reject the mill proposal in Grand Forks was met with cheers. Mayor Brandon Bochenski spoke to NewsNation senior correspondent Brian Entin, expressing regret as he originally supported Fufeng’s arrival to North Dakota.
The Grand Forks Herald reports that it is still not known what the company wants to do with the property. At this time, according to the newspaper, the city is still moving forward with water infrastructure projects for the annexation area.
Nexstar affiliate KXNET noted that the city only has to refuse to connect industrial infrastructure and deny the company building permits. The mayor of Grand Forks, Brandon Bochenski, has requested those remedies be undertaken and the project be stopped.
As Bochenski said in a press release, Fufeng still legally owns the land.
While the project was rejected in Grand Forks, across the country Chinese entities own 383,935 acres of U.S. farmland. Over the last five years, that ownership has increased by 55%. Almost three-quarters of that land are located in the South. The latest report notes it’s less than 1% of foreign held acres.
NewsNation local affiliate KXNET contributed to this report.