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Agriculture to be protected from foreign espionage, bill’s sponsors say with new bill

Despite severe weather and dry spells in certain areas, the growing season was more than ideal...
Despite severe weather and dry spells in certain areas, the growing season was more than ideal for some producers in the state.(KEYC News Now)
Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 4:45 PM CDT
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WASHINGTON (KAIT) - A new bill from two members of Arkansas' congressional delegation would seek to create an Office of Intelligence within the United States Department of Agriculture, with work being done to protect United States agriculture from foreign threats.

The bill from Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Jonesboro) would work on the emerging issue, both lawmakers said Wednesday.

Cotton introduced the bill Wednesday, called the Agricultural Intelligence Measures Act; while Crawford introduced a similar bill in the House earlier in September.

Both lawmakers serve on intelligence committees in Congress - Cotton serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, while Crawford serves on the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

Both Cotton and Crawford said the bill would help deal with agricultural espionage, especially with countries like China.

“The Chinese Communist Party wants to undermine vital American industries through sabotage and intellectual property theft - U.S. agriculture is no exception,” Cotton said in a statement to Region 8 News. “Our bill will help safeguard the food and technology that our country depends on for its prosperity and freedom.”

“The powerhouse that is American agriculture is a product of years of research and serves as an example of our nation’s ingenuity. It is a national security imperative that we safeguard our agriculture sector from foreign threats such as espionage, intellectual theft and biological attacks,” Crawford said. “The AIM Act and its companion bill in the Senate both play a critical role in taking a proactive approach to foreign attacks on our nation’s agriculture,” Crawford said.

Both lawmakers noted that there have been at least three agricultural-related theft or espionage cases involving the Chinese since 2014, while the USDA has been investigating seeds that appear to have been sent to farmers from China.

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