Grand Forks city leaders looking forward following Air Force's official stance on Fufeng project

After 14 months of discussion, planning and controversy, the proposed corn mill to be owned by China-based Fufeng Group on Tuesday hit what appears to be an insurmountable hurdle

020223 NoFufeng2.jpg
A sign along U.S. highway 81 north near the site of the Fufeng project expresses a business owner's sentiment.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – A day after the U.S. Department of the Air Force declared that the proposed Fufeng USA project in Grand Forks presents a “significant threat to national security,” city officials are looking ahead rather than back.

What isn’t known, however, is what Fufeng plans to do.

“Yesterday was a tough day and we’re going to work through all these tough days and look for the next opportunity,” City Administrator Todd Feland told the Herald Wednesday. “We did the very best we could regarding Fufeng development and we’ll do that for every development that happens across the city of Grand Forks.”

After 14 months of discussion, planning and controversy, the proposed corn mill to be owned by China-based Fufeng Group on Tuesday hit what appears to be an insurmountable hurdle. In a letter to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., Andrew P. Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, stressed the Air Force’s stance on the China-based company.

“While (a review by the Committee of Foreign Investment in the United States recently) concluded that it does not have jurisdiction, the (Department of the Air Force’s) view is unambiguous: the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area,” Hunter wrote.


It was the first time the Air Force made an official and declarative comment on what prior to Tuesday were perceived – and not confirmed – security threats posed by Fufeng project. Grand Forks Air Force Base is just a short distance down Highway 2 from where the plant purchased land.

Feland said the city will continue to work on other development projects, including the Epitome Energy soybean crushing facility, which was publicly announced in December. That project is still in the early development stages.

A call to Fufeng USA Chief Operating Officer Eric Chutorash was not returned on Wednesday. Feland had a brief conversation with Chutorash on Tuesday, saying Chutorash was “professional (and) dignified in the moment, despite the challenging message that we had to deliver to him. I think with that there'll be more discussion to come.”

020223 NoFufeng.jpg
A sign along U.S. highway 81 north near the site of the Fufeng project expresses a business owner's sentiment.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

The Fufeng project is not officially shut down yet. A decision to close the project must come from the City Council, which will not meet until Monday. The council’s role – if members choose to move in that direction – likely would be to deny certain permits. Tuesday, the Herald spoke to six of the seven council members, all of whom essentially said they cannot foresee moving forward on the project.

That leaves a big question about the land – Fufeng already owns the 370-acre site. Also, council members in June voted 6-1 to annex another portion of land north of the city, absorbing the project site and a strip of businesses along Highway 81 into city limits.

Feland said there will be more discussion to come regarding the land. The Herald asked Feland if the city will move to purchase it; Feland said it’s too soon to say.

Tuesday’s news came six weeks after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States wrapped up a federal review of the project. The committee ultimately determined it does not have jurisdiction in the case.

Mayor Brandon Bochenski on Wednesday said there is frustration that the Air Force didn’t make an official statement sooner.


“I think that’s a frustration for the majority of people,” he said. “I think it would have made things a lot easier to have that stance and I think going through the CFIUS, that may have tied their hands for a little while that was going on. But there were certainly many months prior to that. It would have been helpful, but in the end I think it’s good that they did come forward with a statement so we’ve got an official stance.”

When looking back at the timeline and how everything unfolded, both Feland and Bochenski said they feel the city took on the project to the best of its ability.

“I think the city of Grand Forks, we’re holding our head high that we worked hard on this project even before we knew it was a Fufeng USA project. … We followed up on every issue, whether the City Council had or citizens had and it ultimately led to the letter yesterday,” Feland said. “I think the city of Grand Forks took on this really large and significant project. We developed a framework to move the project forward if we could pass all the hurdles. We weren't able to do that, but on behalf of the citizens of Grand Forks, we feel proud that we worked the hardest we could and we worked smartly. We look forward to future projects and developments as we move forward.”

Bochenski said he’s proud of provisions within the development agreement that will allow the city to stop the project.

“I think the city really did the best we could,” he said. “I think getting into a development agreement, which allowed us to sort of take baby steps but have the opportunity to shut the project down was really valuable. I mean, in the end, that's what we are using to stop the project is the provisions within the development agreement. So I'm proud of that and then the work done there.”

While Bochenski said not having an official statement made it tough, projects of this size are always difficult.

“I think, obviously, there was an expectation that we'd have an answer sooner. That made it tough. But these are tough projects and we learned from it,” he said. “Nothing was perfect in this process, that's for sure. But I think you have a city that tried to do the best they can to weigh the benefits versus the cons of a very large project that was going to have a lot of economic benefit for the community.”

The project has been discussed at countless City Council meetings and a development agreement was approved by council members last year. One of the purposes of the development agreement was to protect the city financially for the investments made toward studies and environmental reviews.


Feland said the city has spent $1.5 million for the planning and engineering designs, which is well within the $5 million letter of credit stated in the development agreement.

In a statement made Tuesday, Bochenski said the city can stop the project by refusing “to connect industrial infrastructure and deny building permits. As mayor of the city of Grand Forks, I am requesting these remedies be undertaken and the project be stopped, pending City Council approval.”

Feland said an agenda item on Fufeng will be added to the Feb. 6 City Council meeting; that should allow council members to make a final decision.

“I don't think there's much more that needs to be heard or said at this point,” Feland said. “The paragraph in the letter speaks for itself. We’re not going to get any further advice. We’re at the point of the project’s over.”

Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 701-780-1267 or

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
What To Read Next
Get Local