Taiwan-US agricultural cooperation and exchanges can be traced back to January 28, 1986, when the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and Taiwan’s Coordination Council for North American Affairs (CCNAA) signed the “Guidelines for Cooperative Programs in the Agricultural Sciences.” Taiwan’s Council of Agriculture (COA) and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) took joint responsibility for promoting practical work. Areas of cooperation included prevention of disease and insect pests, pig diseases, resource conservation in forests, aquaculture, and food processing, as the two sides built an excellent cooperative platform for research and exchanges in agricultural science and technology. In October 2001, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in the United States and AIT signed a revised agreement that expanded areas of cooperation and stipulated that the two sides would undertake cooperation based on the principles of equity and mutual benefit. At present, the COA and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are the responsible parties, and the two sides take turns hosting the annual bilateral meeting. Originally Taiwan was supposed to host a meeting in 2019, but it was postponed until October 29, 2020. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the meeting was held virtually. It took place between 20:00 and 21:00 Taiwan time (8:00 to 9:00 US time).
The COA states that the bilateral meeting hosted by Taiwan this year was co-chaired by Junne-jih Chen, COA Deputy Minister, and Chavonda Jacobs-Young, Administrator of the ARS. The meeting earned extensive attention from all interested parties, and TECRO Agricultural Division Director Li-Fang Lin and AIT Agricultural Section Chief Mark Petry both attended and delivered opening remarks. In addition to reports delivered at the meeting on the abundant achievements already made in cooperative projects, before the meeting there were video conferences with several heads of ARS National Programs and 13 new projects were proposed on issues of bilateral interest. These include cutting edge technologies such as molecular epidemiological research into pig Seneca valley virus and development of a testing reagent, research into invasion by harmful organisms and strategies to manage damage from insect pests, research into drug-resistant microorganisms, and research into prevention of infection by foodborne pathogens at livestock farms and slaughterhouses. These projects were confirmed by the two co-chairs at the meeting, and it was agreed that the two sides would each appropriate funds for cooperative research and substantive exchanges. Although this year the meeting was affected by Covid-19, this intangibly pushed Taiwan and the US to use a variety of substitute methods for mutual interaction. In addition, at the meeting Taiwan’s co-chair COA Deputy Minister Junne-jih Chen spoke on the theme “How to build a substantive and in-depth mechanism to advance Taiwan-US cooperation in the agricultural sciences,” and under this theme incorporated the next bilateral meeting and strengthening mutual cooperative partnership relations. Finally, members of the Taiwan and US delegations combined their on-screen presence with an actual conference room to take a group photo, providing a satisfying ending to the meeting.
The COA reiterates that ARS is the main research institution of the USDA, and is the largest agricultural research institution in the world. Its duties are to conduct agriculture-related research, provide technical services, resolve rural industry-related problems, improve the quality of agricultural products, and guard food safety. The biggest novelty of this year’s bilateral meeting as compared to the past is that before the meeting the two sides held five group virtual conferences (on animal health; animal production; crop production and protection; natural resources and sustainable Agricultural System; and nutrition, Food Safety/Quality). These enabled scientists at Taiwan’s various agricultural research institutions to have the opportunity to engage in in-depth dialogue with the heads of ARS national level research programs and to view current scientific research capabilities and issues for cooperation, strengthening substantive bilateral cooperation. Looking ahead to a future of the program, the two sides will hold further discussions through the bilateral meeting to build an in-depth bilateral cooperation mechanism. Besides supporting scientists in Taiwan to keep abreast of the world’s most advanced technology development and conduct research on the issues of comprehensive impact and interest level, this platform also provides opportunities for local scientists to join into the US national agricultural research programs, enabling Taiwan’s high-level agricultural science and technology could contribute to the development of sustainable agriculture of global values.