Editor’s Note: Agri-Pulse and The Chicago Council on Global Affairs are teaming up to host a monthly column to explore how the U.S. agriculture and food sector can maintain its competitive edge and advance food security in an increasingly integrated and dynamic world.
In 2018, a federal grand jury charged two Chinese researchers with conspiracy for stealing experimental rice seeds from a research center in Stuttgart, Arkansas. Thanks to diligent work by Customs and Border Protection, these researchers were stopped at the Honolulu airport before they could escape to China with the stolen seeds hidden in their luggage. This wasn’t the first time China has attempted to replicate the cutting-edge technology that is the hallmark of American agriculture.
US investment in agriculture research and development has driven American, and Arkansan, success for the past 100 years. It’s made our agriculture community the most productive and advanced in the world. However, this innovation is under threat. From foreign government attempts to steal seeds and crops, to agricultural companies being purchased by foreign powers, to massive increases in agriculture R&D budgets in rival countries, incidents like these illustrate relentless efforts to illegally appropriate our research and trade secrets. But there are other vulnerabilities to our agriculture system, from diseases like the coronavirus which disrupted food delivery supply chains across the US to African Swine Fever which has killed millions of hogs and gets closer to our borders every day. These examples show that agriculture isn’t just a way to put food on the table. It’s also a battlefield. We need to start treating and investing in it as such.
In Arkansas, agriculture is a way of life and a big part of the economy. We know firsthand the hard work that goes into researching, growing, and processing agriculture products in our communities. Our producers pour their lives into developing the best methods to feed the country. As a result, Americans enjoy the highest-quality food and the most dependable food system in the world. We even have plenty left over to share with the rest of the world.
The American people benefit from a secure food system. We need to keep it that way. That’s why we’ve introduced the Agricultural Intelligence Measures Act, or AIM Act, which would protect our agriculture system by creating an intelligence office within the Department of Agriculture.