Cybersecurity and Ag - 2

Ag Corporations Prepare for Battle Against Hackers

Victoria G Myers
By  Victoria G. Myers , Progressive Farmer Senior Editor
Some of America's largest ag businesses are in a constant state of watchfulness and consider cyberattacks as inevitable. (DTN/Progressive Farmer file photo)

Agribusiness giants like Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) understand the threat hackers pose to their operations.

"We assume we will be a target. That is the safer position to take," stressed ADM President and CEO Juan Luciano, at a Wall Street Journal Global Food Forum.

Luciano explained the company's security is built around strategies for risk management, having redundancies and providing multiple sources for customers. They have a ransomware task force, retain cybersecurity experts and work with employees to create an awareness of common ways hackers gain access to a company.

"We have been in business 119 years. We've been through wars, hurricanes and a pandemic, and we kept 800 plants running and operating," Luciano said. "We own railyards, barges, trucks, ocean-going vessels. We have multiple locations. If you can't go to one elevator, you can go to another. We can divert rail or trucking. We are not completely invulnerable, but we feel good about our level of protection."

In upcoming weeks, DTN/Progressive Farmer is posting a special series called Cybersecurity and Ag to examine the threat cyberattackers pose to agriculture and explore what farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses can do to protect themselves against these high-tech criminals.


Farmers and ranchers are increasingly sharing operation and personal data through a variety of online platforms today. What happens when an online supplier is hacked, and seed or inputs are suddenly inaccessible when they are most needed? What about markets? Transportation networks?

Redundancies and optional suppliers and buyers seem to be some of the best protections available today. Analysts stress the importance of building redundancies into every segment of an operation. In many cases, however, that's easier said than done. Because while the desire may be there to protect, the capital to do so isn't always available.

CHS' Sarah Engstrom, chief information security officer and vice president of IT security, productivity and privacy, says smaller companies especially are not always in a strong cybersecurity position often due to limited financial resources.

"In today's digital age, cybersecurity is a necessary place to invest if you are going to take a proactive or reactive posture. It's unfortunate, but many people still have a mindset that you can implement technology, set it and forget it. That is no longer an option. We have to move past that kind of thinking," she stresses.

Asked if precision agriculture and specialty-market data sharing are opening more operations up to potential attacks, Engstrom says the more interconnected we are in agriculture, the more opportunity it creates for cyberattackers.

"What a farmer or rancher can do right now to protect their operations, and their data, is to spend time and thought and have a conversation with any provider that is supposed to be securing their data. Ask if that entity is, in fact, investing in security. Ask them what attacks they can combat, how, and what's on their roadmap to continually mature. There is no going back. There is only asking the right questions and evaluating the security posture of whatever organizations we agree to do business with."


Editor's Note: This is the second of the stories in our special Cybersecurity and Ag series. Next in the series: Does the U.S. government offer any protections against cyberattacks on America's food supply?

You can find earlier stories in this series at:

Cybersecurity and Ag - 1

Cybercriminals Take Aim at America's Food Supply…

Victoria Myers can be reached at

Follow her on Twitter @myersPF

Victoria Myers