Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s reelection campaign has received substantial donations from two Chinese conglomerates that own U.S. farmland, despite Tester’s publicly expressed opposition to the sale of land to foreign adversaries. The campaign’s contradiction was highlighted when it launched a television advertisement in November, denouncing Chinese companies’ acquisition of American farmland and promoting Tester’s legislative efforts to prevent such transactions with foreign adversaries.
Despite Tester’s strong stance in the ad, his campaign has accepted thousands of dollars from the Political Action Committee (PAC) of Chinese state-owned agriculture company Syngenta, which owns approximately 1,500 acres of American farmland. Additionally, a lobbyist representing Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, with ownership of about 180,000 acres, contributed to Tester’s campaign.
Tester emphasized his concerns about China as a significant threat to the nation in the ad, stating, “China is the greatest threat facing our nation.” He cited issues such as job undercutting, the impact of fentanyl on Montana’s communities, and alleged espionage activities. Tester pledged to work with Republican colleagues to oppose Chinese corporations buying American farmland.
Notably, after ChemChina’s acquisition of Syngenta in 2017, Tester’s campaign received $3,500 in contributions from Syngenta’s PAC in 2018, just before Tester’s reelection. A lobbyist for Syngenta, Laura Peterson, also made donations to Tester’s campaign in March 2018. Subsequently, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin mandated Syngenta to sell 160 acres of its land in the state, citing concerns over ties with China, and imposed a fine for not promptly reporting its affiliation with the foreign adversary.
Tester met with Syngenta CEO Erik Fyrwald and Mary Kay Thatcher, senior manager of federal government and industry relations, on October 17, as indicated in Tester’s public schedule. Syngenta’s PAC had also contributed $4,500 to Tester’s campaign before its acquisition by the Chinese conglomerate.
In July 2023, Tester’s campaign received $2,500 from a lobbyist representing Smithfield Foods, Todd Wooten. Smithfield Foods, owned by Chinese pork company WH Group since 2013, constitutes approximately half of the 350,000 acres of U.S. farmland owned by Chinese companies.
Despite these financial connections, Tester co-sponsored the Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security Act of 2023 and an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to prevent China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea from purchasing American farmland. China currently owns the most U.S. farmland among these adversaries, totaling over 352,000 acres.
Experts consider Tester one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the 2024 elections.
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