The “2022 Bilateral Cooperation Meeting on Agricultural Science and Technology between USDA-ARS/AIT and COA/TECRO” was held on August 2, 2022 (US time) at the Department of Agriculture in the US capital of Washington, DC. Council of Agriculture (COA) Deputy Minister Chen Junne-jih led a delegation consisting of the heads and staff from research institutes for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and livestock to attend the meeting held based on the “Guidelines for Cooperative Programs in the Agricultural Sciences” signed in 1986 and subsequent amendments. The two sides undertake cooperative projects in agricultural sciences including cooperative research, technical exchanges, conferences, visits, and training on the principles of mutual interests and benefits. The two parties take turns hosting the annual meeting.
The cooperative program between Taiwan and the US is divided into five areas: animal health; animal production; crop production and protection; natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems; and nutrition, food safety/quality. The heads of COA affiliated research institutions and the corresponding USDA-ARS National Program Leaders co-chaired the group meetings to track the progress and review an individual project’s achievement as well as to design further cooperation. The conclusion and suggestions were convened by members of each side’s representative delegation and project cooperation organizations one day before the formal meeting. The summaries were confirmed in the meeting itself, and achievements included the following: (1) The animal health group jointly developed testing reagent kits for monitoring swine vesicular disease and continued efforts towards keeping Taiwan a zone free of foot and mouth disease. In addition, the group planned to conduct new research into parasitic diseases in order to better understand changes in diseases under climate change. (2) The animal production group worked jointly to develop effective means of responding to climate change and reducing heat stress on farm animals, from different approaches including breeding, nutrition, probiotics, animal welfare, and a better understanding of genetic diversity. (3) The natural resources and sustainable agricultural systems group has used a model to estimate the impact of climate change on Taiwan’s soybean and corn production. The finding has been reported, and future efforts are focused on the issue of net zero carbon emissions. Cooperation with the US side will be expanded particularly in this respect. (4) The crop production and protection group adopted automatic counting systems and Internet of Things systems to monitor harmful organisms’ invasion and provide early warning for likely threats. In the future the two sides will work together to develop biocontrol technology in hopes of reducing pesticide use and will coordinate with the major policy of integrated pest management (IPM). (5) The nutrition, food safety/quality group emphasized the increasing concerns about food safety on both sides. A model for risk analysis of trace heavy metal contaminations has been jointly developed, together with an establishment of a gene bank for drug-resistant pathogen classification.
The COA states that besides the fruitful achievements of the individual groups, additional two achievements have been obtained in this bilateral meeting:
1. Starting in 2022 Taiwan and the US will relaunch cooperation in fisheries and forestry, which has been suspended for many years
The two sides believe that there is a need to resume cooperation in fisheries and forestry. In terms of forestry, they will explore the ecology, natural enemies, and control of the propagation of foreign invasive plants between Taiwan and the US in hopes of finding effective ways to control the spread of invasive plants. In terms of fisheries, Taiwan proposed cooperation on new issues including the efficiency and sustainability of aquaculture, net zero emissions, and low-carbon animal production. The US side stated that after the meeting the corresponding research organizations would undertake further consultations to specify the details of cooperation.
2. Taiwan and the US agreed to strengthen mutual cultivation of talent and technical exchanges
During the meeting, the two sides engaged in wide-ranging discussions of how to cultivate the young scientists and how senior researchers can share or pass along their experience and technical skills to the younger generation. The two sides will encourage young talent to participate in short-term technical study and long-term training programs. The mutual cooperative partnership will be promoted through the systematic support of exchanges of the young scientists as it will lay the network foundation to further extend the bilateral agricultural researcher cooperation.
The COA reiterated that the US Department of Agriculture has the largest agricultural research system in the world. This system is led by the Agricultural Research Service, which is responsible for undertaking agriculture-related research, providing technical services, helping the industry to solve problems, and improving agriproduct quality and food safety. Looking to the future, Taiwan and the US will continue interactions and will, through the “Bilateral Cooperation Meeting on Agricultural Science and Technology between USDA-ARS/AIT and COA/TECRO,” engage in an in-depth bilateral dialogue, expand the scope of cooperation, and jointly reveal achievements, thereby enabling Taiwan to highlight its high-level agricultural technology on the world stage and to make contributions to research of global importance.