Plans for a Chinese corn mill in North Dakota spur uproar

Until retiring last year, Frank Matejcek spent most of his life farming- raising cattle, growing wheat, sugar beets and other crops on 800 acres just outside Grand Forks, North Dakota, on the border of Minnesota.

Now, after 50 years of working the land, Matejcek and his wife Lucy are among a number of farmers and other Grand Forks-area residents who say they are fighting to protect the land, and their community, from plans for the construction of a large wet corn mill plant by the Chinese conglomerate Fufeng Group Ltd.

The plant is to be the first U.S.-based manufacturing facility for Fufeng, a Hong Kong-based holding company engaged in a range of agricultural, chemical and other businesses. The Fufeng project is slated to be constructed on a 370-acre site, using corn to make food additives, animal feed and other products.

State and city leaders have cheered the plans, and say the project will bring a much-needed boost to the workforce and economy.

But opponents, including Matejcek, whose farm is less than two miles from the proposed plant site, say they have many concerns about the plant, including large tax breaks given to its Chinese ownership, and how the plant will impact the environment, including water demands and increased natural gas use.

“The pollution and the water usage and the land usage… the transportation issue, is going to be a nightmare,” Matejcek said.