Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03) joined Congressman Jim Baird (IN-04) in sending a letter to President Biden urging accountability of foreign adversaries for recent cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and our food system, and to find a reasonable solution to prevent future attacks.
“As America witnessed in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, even localized outages of processing capabilities in this sector can erode consumer confidence, stimulate panic buying, and create long-term distortion in commodity, retail, and service markets. Disruptions of JBS’s processing capacities altered national daily slaughter rates by upwards of 27,000 head of cattle per day before operations resumed,” said the lawmakers. “This capacity reduction distorted market prices with a sharp price decline and subsequent rally. Though relatively fortunate that distortions in this case resolved quickly, future prolonged attacks of this nature could have a devastating impact on domestic food stability.”
The lawmakers continued, “As your Administration and the whole of the federal government continue the investigation and response to this attack, we urge you to consider this attack and any future attacks on segments of the food supply chain as the national security threats that they are. The stability of the U.S. domestic food system is critical, not only as a foundation of the American economy and a means to avoid the devastations of famine, but also as a necessary tool in fully resourcing the nutritional needs of our citizenry and military personnel, ensuring food safety, and minimizing risk of foodborne illness or infectious disease, contributing to energy security, and as a tremendously valuable leverage in international trade negotiations. Simply put, America’s food system is critical infrastructure to our nation, and must be protected as such.”
JBS USA is America’s largest meatpacker by volume- processing nearly 25% of U.S. beef, roughly 20% of domestic pork, and is the nation’s second largest poultry producer. Over Memorial Day weekend they were hacked with a ransomware attack that shut down the company’s operations across North America until they paid the Russian hacking group REvil a ransom of $11 million.
“Over the past few years, halting disruptions of our food supply chain have hearkened Americans’ watchful eyes. From the ranch to the grocery store, very rarely has the significance of food security resonated across the entire agriculture industry at a time like it is now. There is no greater threat to national security than a threat to our food supply chain,” said Congressman Lucas. “As cyberattacks are becoming more and more prevalent, we must address and protect America’s critical infrastructure- whether it be our food, energy, or financial systems. Ensuring we build upon existing cyber capabilities and strengthening the cyber resiliency of our industries is critical to lessening the potential harm to America’s economy and our daily lives. I implore President Biden and his Administration to work with Congress and across different agencies to better prepare and mitigate future attacks on our food supply chain and other critical infrastructure industries.”
“Ransomware of any kind poses a dangerous threat to key components of America’s critical infrastructure, including our food supply system,” said Congressman Baird. “Attacks on segments of our food supply chain can have a devastating and wide-ranging impact on our nation, which is why I am calling on the Biden Administration to recognize these attacks for what they truly are: egregious and legitimate threats to America’s national security. The American people deserve to have confidence in our nation’s ability to manage acts of hostility from outside influences, which is why chronic offenders like China and Russia must be held accountable.”
Read the full letter here.