Senators Introduce Cybersecurity Agriculture Bill

Supply Chain Policy on Congress’ Radar
Getty image of food inspection
The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act would identify vulnerabilities and boost the sector’s defense systems. (RECVISUAL via Getty Images)

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Legislation meant to enhance cybersecurity in the agriculture sector was recently introduced by a bipartisan group of senators.

The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act, sponsored by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would aim to identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities as well as boost the sector’s cyber defenses.

“America’s adversaries are seeking to gain any advantage they can against us — including targeting critical industries like agriculture. Congress must work with the Department of Agriculture to identify and defeat these cybersecurity vulnerabilities,” Cotton said Jan. 25. “This legislation will ensure we are prepared to protect the supply chains our farmers and all Americans rely on.”

Gillibrand added, “Protecting our nation’s farms and food security against cyberattacks is a vital component of our national security. The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act is a crucial step toward preparing our nation’s agriculture sector to respond to potential cyberattacks. I am committed to ensuring our American agriculture sector is ready to defend against these cyberthreats and look forward to working with my colleagues to get this important bill passed.”

Sens. Tom Cotton, Kirsten Gillibrand

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) 

Specifically, the legislation would direct the secretary of agriculture to perform a biennial study about cybersecurity threats in the agriculture and food sectors. The report must be submitted to Congress. The bill also would direct the secretary, working with the secretaries of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, as well as the director of National Intelligence, to perform an annual cross-sector crisis simulation exercise. Overall, to fulfill the measure’s obligations, $1 million would be authorized from fiscal 2024 to 2028 annually.

Committee consideration has yet to be scheduled. Co-sponsoring the Senate bill are Sens. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.).

Companion legislation was introduced in the House.

“Food and farm security is national security,” Rep. Brad Finstad (R-Minn.), a co-sponsor of the House bill, said Jan. 25. “With growing threats at home and abroad, it is increasingly important that we ensure our nation’s agriculture sector and food supply chain remain secure.”

A Show of Support

The Farm and Food Cybersecurity Act is endorsed by:

  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • North American Millers’ Association
  • National Grain and Feed Association
  • National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • National Pork Producers Council 
  • USA Rice Federation
  • Agricultural Retailers Association
  • American Sugar Alliance
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce

“Food security is national security, so it’s critical that American agriculture is protected from cyberthreats,” added Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), a co-sponsor. “No longer just some tech issue, cyberattacks have the potential to upend folks’ daily lives and threaten our food supply.”

“The agriculture and food industry has for many years worked closely with the federal government, including the departments of Agriculture and Homeland Security, to enhance security and resilience. This bill furthers that goal,” Matthew Eggers, vice president of cybersecurity policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement accompanying the bill’s introduction. “The bill’s call for studying cybersecurity risks to the sector and holding exercises, including to mitigate food-related disruptions in the supply chain, is a productive step.

“The chamber commends the lawmakers active on this legislation, and we look forward to working with them and other stakeholders as the bill advances through the legislative process.”

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