NDFB says cyberattack on JBS beef plant could have been much worse


NDFB President Daryl Lies says last month's cyberattack could have caused long-term massive impacts on national food security.

The Russian-based ransomware cyberattack on the world’s largest meat processing company, JBS, last month did not have a major impact on North Dakota cattle producers, because it was handled swiftly, but cybersecurity experts are warning that attacks targeting critical sectors of the U.S. economy are evidence that industry hasn’t been taking years of repeated warnings seriously.

For today’s Ag & Energy Insight, we look at what companies should be doing to protect themselves from cyberattacks that could cause far-reaching catastrophic impacts on society.

North Dakota Farm Bureau President and Douglas hog farmer, Daryl Lies, says the cyberattack didn’t have a direct impact on the majority of North Dakota livestock producers. Lies explains that North Dakota does not have a lot of feedlot operators, but the small ones we do have, were impacted by longer weight times at slaughterhouses.

A larger disruption to our food system could have long-term devastating impacts on multiple tiers and levels of our society. Lies explains Food security is just as important as military and energy, to national security.

“Those two things have been attacked in the last week by these cyber terrorists, because I think this is the new terrorism, holding hostage the ability to operate IT systems, that’s concerning going down the road. If they would have done this properly and they would have been able to lock up JBS for weeks at a time it could have had a massive impact on farmers and ranchers in North Dakota and across the whole nation for that aspect because they have 23 to 24 percent of the slaughter capacity of beef cattle in the United States,” explained Lies.

Last month, fuel delivery in the southeast of the U.S. was crippled for several days after a ransomware attack targeted the Colonial Pipeline. Investigators say that attack was also linked to a group with ties to Russia. Colonial Pipeline has confirmed it paid a $4.4 million dollar ransom to the cyber-criminals responsible.

Last week on KX Ag & Energy Insight, we told you how the State Water Commission is helping ranchers with funding for permanent and sustainable water sources on their pasture lands through the Drought Disaster Assistance Program.

The State Water Commission is reimbursing cattle producers 50 percent of the cost, or up to $4,500 dollars per project, and producers can apply for up to three projects. The Governor and the State Water Commission put $2 million dollars into the program and they are getting close to running out of that allocated amount of money.

The Water Commission encourage producers to still apply, because there’s a good possibility that more money will be put into the program at the next Water Commission committee meeting happening this Tuesday, June 8th.

Water-well contractor and President of Backman Drilling, Rex Backman, has been extremely busy since late March. Backman Drilling is based out of Wilton and has drilled about 20 cattle wells so far.

The company drills within a hundred-mile radius around their home base. They have been drilling all cattle wells on the east side of the Missouri River in areas such as Butte and Moffit.

KX had the opportunity to capture video of Backman Drilling’s first lawn irrigation well drill this year in Bismarck. After they are done drilling for lawn irrigation in Bismarck, they are taking their operation across the river and drilling in the western side of their market area.

“The phone rings all the time and it’s kinda hard to get to everybody, but the drilling we’re around 20 right now, and then the pump-side, my brother does that side but he is constantly going constantly behind, this is our first irrigation well for lawns that we’ve done everything has been cattle before, we’re finally getting down to Bismarck in June,” explained Rex Backman.

Last week, the Water Commission told us they have approved 503 applications, and again they encourage cattle producers to still apply. Follow this link to learn about the Drought Disaster Assistance Program.

Continuing coverage on a revised rule to the Clean Water Act that would majorly impact North Dakota farmers and ranchers if reinstated. The Waters of the United States, or WOTUS rule.

Passed into law under the Obama administration in 2015, then later undone and re-written by former President Trump’s EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in 2017.

Obama’s version protected major waterways, tributaries, adjacent wetlands, and a few other categories. Ag groups say the rule stymied North Dakota Ag production and construction. Former President Trump called it “regulatory overreach” and directed the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to rewrite it so that only wetlands would be federally protected if they are adjacent to or connected to a major navigable body of water.

As it stands now after the rewrite, The EPA can only govern navigable major waterways. The rest of regulation is up to States and local jurisdictions.

WOTUS was a topic of interest at last week’s stakeholder listening session with new Biden EPA Administrator Michael Regan, hosted by Senator Cramer. North Dakota’s Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem was there. North Dakota’s AG led the effort back in 2015 to block the Obama-era rule for North Dakota and thirteen other states.

“I want to assure you that North Dakota is looking forward to constructively engaging with the EPA to develop a WOTUS rule that is practical and that recognizes the importance and value of state jurisdiction over state waters. The WOTUS rule should recognize the federal jurisdiction extends only to navigable waters that respects state sovereignty,” said Stenehjem.

At last week’s stakeholder listening session, new EPA Administrator Michael Regan expressed concerns about the Obama-era WOTUS rule. If the Biden Administration does try to rewrite the Trump-era version, Regan has conveyed willingness to follow a cooperative federalism approach and open the lines of communications between the EPA and state and local regulating authorities.

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