By Rep. Ashley Hinson & Sen. Marco Rubio
April 5, 2022
Ukraine is sometimes called the breadbasket of Europe. One of the largest wheat and corn producers in the world, its fields feed millions of people across the globe, many of whom live in “global crisis zones” with little to no food production of their own.
All of that is changing because of Vladimir Putin’s horrific invasion. According to the United Nations, the Ukrainian “food supply chain is falling apart” because of “insecurity and the reluctance of [truck] drivers.” The disruption of the global supply chain is already raising food prices. Tragically, it will be a source of “collateral hunger” for countless men, women, and children throughout the coming weeks, months, and possibly even years.
Times like these remind us how blessed we are to live in a country with a resilient food supply chain — and how thankful we should be to our domestic agriculture and aquaculture sectors. While select imports are in short supply and gas remains expensive, Americans are still able to buy groceries at the supermarket and dine at their favorite local restaurants.
This is true despite the difficult conditions that American agriculture, distribution workers, and supermarket employees endured during the pandemic. It demonstrates the value of domestic production, even in the most uncertain and challenging times. It also highlights the importance of government policies that promote resiliency across critical industries.
Of course, Iowans and Midwesterners already understand this. Some policymakers get criticized during normal times for the measures we put in place to protect and grow our food supply. That is as true for defending Iowa’s pork market in Taiwan from Chinese activity as it is for protecting Florida’s seasonal crops from unfair Mexican trade practices. But in moments of crisis, it means people have food on their plates. After all, food security is national security. And if the events of the last few years have taught us anything, it is that relying on foreign nations for basic goods is dangerous during times of crisis.
U.S. food production has proved an essential safeguard against Putin’s aggression. But now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. America must turn its attention to building the same type of robust, resilient supply chains in other critical sectors of our economy to ensure they hold up in times of crisis.
Right now, millions of Americans are suffering from high gas prices as global supplies tighten and domestic production lags. Bringing energy production back to the U.S., as we did under President Donald Trump’s Administration, would protect our economy from authoritarian dictators like Putin — and it would be better for the environment than importing oil from tyrants like the Ayatollah of Iran and Venezuela’s narco-regime, as President Biden would have us do.
Energy is not the only sector that we should seek to bring back to America. For example, the pandemic revealed our inability to make pharmaceutical drugs and other medical equipment as a substantial national vulnerability. Moreover, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is actively working to overtake the U.S. in advanced technology production. We shouldn’t wait until the CCP succeeds in doing so — this is a plan we must counter by revitalizing our own manufacturing today.
A pro-American industrial policy will identify key industries — from food and energy to biotech, rare-earth minerals, and artificial intelligence — and pursue strategies to spur investment in them. Revitalizing these sectors in the U.S. will prove essential to weathering future storms and making sure the 21st Century is another American Century.
There are clear steps the administration and Congress can take to fortify American industry. On the energy front, we need to secure our fuel supply and bolster our domestic resources by reopening the Keystone XL Pipeline project and lifting constraints on domestic energy exploration and production. To respond to Chinese competition in our medical supply chain, we should incentivize American innovation and hold the CCP accountable for stealing, and profiting from, our intellectual property. In addition, while our food production industry is a model for vulnerable supply chains, we can’t take it for granted. We need to embrace policies that scale up agricultural resiliency in the face of unforeseen circumstances.
These ideas are obvious to those in America’s breadbasket because it is their lived experience. Iowans have lived through the booms and busts and have fought off unfair competition. It’s crucial that policymakers in Washington recognize the full value of what domestic production provides our country.
Today, U.S. agriculture serves as an example of why resilience in critical industries is essential to sustaining our nation’s strength. Ignoring our vulnerabilities is no longer an option and failing to address them is a mistake we cannot afford to make.
Rep. Ashley Hinson is a Republican representing Iowa’s 1st District. Sen. Marco Rubio is a Republican from Florida. Hinson is running for re-election in the new 2nd District.