Washington Rep. Dan Newhouse, a GOP leader of congressional efforts to curb foreign influence in U.S. agriculture, has returned $17,500 in campaign donations to political action committees representing the Chinese-owned agribusiness companies Smithfield Foods and Syngenta. 

According to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, Newhouse has given $16,500 back to the PAC for Syngenta, a Swiss seed and chemical company purchased by ChemChina, and $1,000 to the PAC for Smithfield Foods, the meat giant owned by the Hong Kong-based WH group. 

Newhouse has made his concerns about Chinese influence in U.S. farming a major part of his platform in recent years. Last year, he introduced an amendment to the fiscal 2022 funding bill for USDA that would bar Chinese state-owned businesses from buying U.S. agricultural land. 

However, Smithfield Foods — which asserts its parent company is publicly traded, not state-owned — lobbied on the amendment, urging Newhouse to clarify that the restrictions should apply only to companies owned by the government of China. By the time the amendment was introduced, it referred to companies "owned, in full or in part by the People’s Republic of China."

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"Congressman Newhouse has deep concern over the Chinese government's aggressive acquisition of American farmland,” Derek Flint, the campaign’s manager, told Agri-Pulse in an email. "Upon learning Syngenta and Smithfield are wholly owned or controlled by the Chinese government he returned their PAC contributions."

Newhouse’s version of the amendment never made its way into the final appropriations bill. The ban was dropped in conference committee in favor of language requiring a USDA report looking more deeply into land ownership trends by China, Iran, and North Korea.

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