Congress has enacted legislation to address security threats to the country’s food and agricultural systems. The “Securing our Agriculture and Food Act” enrolled on June 22, 2017, authorizes the government to coordinate efforts to defend U.S. food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and other high-consequence events to create risks to homeland security. The bill has been forwarded to President Trump for approval.
The bi-partisan bill, sponsored by Rep. Young (R-Iowa) with co-sponsors Rep. Payne (D-NJ) and Rep. Donovan (R-NY), amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002. House Bill 1238 requires the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to coordinate an agriculture and food security program with federal departments and agencies that includes:
- Managing DHS responsibilities established by President George W. Bush in his 2004 Presidential Directive 9, which created a national policy for defending food and agricultural systems against terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.
- Overseeing and integrating DHS activities related to veterinary public health, food dense, and agricultural security.
- Leading policy initiatives relating to domestic preparedness for and response to agricultural terrorism.
- Coordinating activities on food and agriculture security and screening procedures for domestic and imported products with other departments, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Rep. Young drafted the bill following Iowa’s 2015 avian influenza outbreak, which resulted in the loss of millions of chickens and turkeys in his home state. According to Rep. Young, the event raised concerns about the federal government’s ability to quickly react to animal disease outbreaks and whether the nation would be able to respond capably to agro-terrorism threats.
“We don’t always think of a terrorist attack as a deliberate, mass food contamination, or the danger a major disease outbreak could pose,” stated Sen. McCaskill (D-MO), when the bill was introduced in the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Congress needs to think forward about the wide array of threats we face and take action before there’s a tragedy, not afterwards.”
The “Securing our Agriculture and Food Act,” H.B. 1238, is available here.