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FACT SHEET:  Strengthening the security of our nation's food supply

07-06-2004

The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Agriculture work closely together as part of the Administration?s efforts to secure America?s food supply.  Protecting the homeland is one of President Bush?s top priorities, and this commitment includes a multi-pronged plan to protect the nation?s food supply with leadership from Homeland Security, Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and others. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, an unprecedented partnership between federal agencies and state and local leadership, the private sector, and the academic community has implemented measures to strengthen the security of our nation?s food supply, taking specific steps towards the strategic goals of awareness, prevention, protection, response, and recovery.

Effective Partnerships and Additional Funding:

Centers of Excellence: On July 6, 2004, Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman launched the Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. This marked the awarding of funds for a program announced by the Department of Homeland Security in April 2004 of a national strategy of two Homeland Security University Centers of Excellence on Agro-Security: 

o       The University of Minnesota Homeland Security National Center for Food Protection and Defense, working closely with partners in academia, industry, and government, will address agro-security issues related to post-harvest food protection.  Homeland Security anticipates providing the University of Minnesota and its partners with $15 million over the course of the next three years to establish best practices and attract new researchers to manage and respond to food contamination events, both intentional and naturally occurring.

o       The Texas A&M University Homeland Security National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, working closely with partners in academia, industry, and government, will receive $18 million over three years to address potential threats to animal agriculture including foot-and-mouth disease, Rift Valley fever, and Avian influenza.  Their research on foot-and-mouth disease will be carried out in collaboration with Homeland Security?s Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which is celebrating 50 years of animal health research this year.

Laboratory Networks: USDA has also worked with state and university laboratories around the country to create plant and animal health laboratory networks that have increased the capability to respond to agroterrorism emergencies.  

Animal Health: The Department of Homeland Security?s Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) is a critical component of the nation?s ability to anticipate, prevent, respond to, and recover from either a terrorist attack or natural introduction of a foreign animal disease in the U.S. The Center focuses on biological countermeasures to reduce the probability, and the potential consequences, of a biological attack on the nation?s agricultural system. Oversight of PIADC was transferred to Homeland Security from USDA in 2003, and an operational partnership now continues a 50-year tradition of scientific research and development to protect the nation?s agricultural infrastructure.

Improved Food Supply Security: 

Partnering with the Private Sector: The Departments of Homeland Security, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services have created an unprecedented partnership with private sector agricultural leaders to focus exclusively on security issues. Led by key industry members, this group vastly improves coordination and communication between the private sector and the government on critical food safety issues. This new industry-partnering structure will broaden the understanding of potential vulnerabilities within the food supply chain; develop and implement protective strategies; enhance new bio-surveillance initiatives; broaden the distribution of best practices for safety and security of food production, processing and distribution systems; and expedite national infrastructure protection planning efforts for vital ?farm to fork? infrastructure. The new group works in tandem with the existing Food and Agriculture Information Sharing Analysis Center (ISAC). 

New Food Security Councils: This sector organizing effort will result in a sector council, and food and agriculture sub-councils, that represent the key components of the our nation?s agriculture and food chain (pre-farm input, farm operations and producers, food processors, food transporters, dairy operations, warehouse and wholesale operators, and the retail sector), ensuring appropriate representation of all

Dedicated USDA Office: USDA has established an Office of Food Security and Emergency Preparedness to coordinate the development of the infrastructure and capacity to prevent, prepare for, and respond to an intentional attack on the U.S. food supply.

Vulnerability Assessment: USDA is conducting vulnerability assessments for domestic and imported food, has developed a food security plan, and has conducted training sessions for employees, veterinarians, and inspectors in preparedness activities. USDA completed vulnerability assessments for domestic and imported meat, poultry and egg products.  Results from these assessments are being used to develop strategies and countermeasures to reduce or eliminate the potential risks at vulnerable points along the farm-to-table continuum.  

Best Practices: The Department of Homeland Security has awarded the State of Iowa, working with the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, $2 million for development of the Agriculture Counterterrorism Project. Through this Partnership, which also includes Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, the project develops interstate food security planning initiatives and asset protection programs for the food supply chain. The Agriculture Counterterrorism Project will also provide the agriculture industry with effective methods for identifying vulnerabilities and developing security strategies, with guidelines and models distributed to state, local, and tribal governments across the nation. 

Monitoring System: USDA has implemented the National Consumer Complaint Monitoring System, a surveillance and sentinel system that monitors and tracks food-related consumer complaints 24/7 and serves as a real-time, early warning system of a potential attack on the food supply.

New Tools and Technologies:

Private Sector Innovation: The Department of Homeland Security, in June 2004, announced the first Designations and Certifications under the Support Anti-terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies (SAFETY) Act.  The SAFETY Act provides liability limitations for makers and sellers of qualified anti-terrorism technologies, including those that may be used to protect the nation?s food supply. 

Bioforensics: The Department of Homeland Security is developing a new National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center (NBACC) to support the law enforcement and intelligence communities in their biodefense responsibilities. The Center will apply the newest advances in science to the challenges both of biological threat characterization and of bioforensics, strengthening the nation?s ability to determine the source of a biological agent used in an attack and strengthening deterrence.  

Situational Awareness: Food security is monitored as part of the information analysis and infrastructure protection focus of the Homeland Security Operations Center (HSOC), the primary national-level hub for information sharing and operational coordination relating to domestic incident management ? dramatically increasing the vertical coordination between federal, state, local, tribal and private sector partners. The HSOC collects and fuses information from a variety of sources to help deter, detect, and prevent terrorist acts. Operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the HSOC provides situational awareness and monitoring of the homeland, manages incidents and response activities, and issues advisories and threat bulletins concerning threats to homeland security as well as specific protective and counter measure guidance. The HSOC includes real-time representation of over 35 agencies, including USDA and HHS and ranging from state and local police to federal intelligence agencies.

Speeding Implementation: The Department of Homeland Security launched, in June 2004, its new Regional Technology Integration (RTI) initiative. RTI provides a mechanism for working directly with urban areas on infrastructure protection, including protection of the food supply, to develop and deliver new technologies as part of a regional security response. The program focuses on regional collaboration, private sector solutions, measurable objectives and continuous evaluation, and communicating best practices and lessons learned to other communities, states, Congress, the Administration, and other federal agencies.

Increased Coordination:

Public Sector Partnerships: Homeland Security has brought the states, via representation by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers (ASTHO), into a joint federal-state food and agriculture sector team to act as the ?government sector? counterpart to the industry sector organization.  This will improve communications and coordination within the entire public-private partnership that has been established to defend of our nation?s food supply chain.

Animal Health: USDA is working with states to expedite the development and implementation of a National Animal Identification System to help stop the spread of animal diseases that are intentionally or accidentally introduced into the United States. USDA has a long history of working cooperatively with state Departments of Agriculture, state veterinarians, and other state agencies in safeguarding the U.S. food supply and American agriculture. 

Protection Strategies: Homeland Security, through its Office of Domestic Preparedness, is expanding its state homeland security assessment program to better encompass the agriculture and food infrastructures within the states. This will make the states more effectively integrated as partners with DHS, USDA and FDA in assessing the vulnerabilities of the nation?s food chain and in developing and deploying mitigation and protective strategies.

Surveillance Strategies: The Department of Agriculture has created a National Surveillance Unit within its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service?s (APHIS) Veterinary Services program that will provide a focal point for the collection, processing, and delivery of surveillance information that is needed in order to analyze risk and take action.  The Unit will design surveillance strategies and coordinate and integrate surveillance activities, working collaboratively with other APHIS programs, federal and state counterparts, and other stakeholders. This integrated approach will provide data and information necessary to guide actions to protect the health and enhance the marketability of the nation?s livestock and poultry. In addition, the APHIS Emergency Operations Center was completed to coordinate and support emergency response in APHIS.  APHIS also oversaw the distribution of $7.7 million in Emergency Management and Foreign Animal Disease Surveillance funds to help states and tribal governments enhance their emergency preparedness, surveillance programs, and laboratory networks.

Security Guidance: The Department of Agriculture developed guidance documents to inform farmers and ranchers of steps they can take to secure their operations. In addition, food security guidance documents for meat, poultry and egg products processors, transporters, distributors and consumers have been developed and distributed to help industry stay vigilant for potential threats. The Department upgraded security efforts at USDA state and county offices, including a web-based tracking system for disaster reporting, maintaining databases of fertilizer, food, and seed listings, and coordinating with state and county emergency boards to assist during an emergency.

Border Protection: For more than a year, Homeland Security?s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has worked in concert with the Food and Drug Administration to enforce two key provisions of the Bio-Terrorism Act of 2002 ? the registration of facilities that manufacture, process, or hold food for import into the U.S.; and the prior notice of those shipments presented for entry.  More than 8,000 CBP Officers and Agriculture Specialists have been trained and certified to detect and intercept shipments and to perform Bio-Terrorism Act-related work at more than 300 ports of entry. USDA also works with Homeland Security border inspectors to train inspectors and set policy for plants, animals, and commodities entering the United States. USDA employs new Import Surveillance Liaison Inspectors, who are stationed around the nation at Import Houses and ports of entry to enhance surveillance of imported products

Threat Detection: In response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9, titled ?Defense of United States Agriculture and Food?, the Department of Homeland Security is developing an innovative, interagency National Bio-surveillance Integration Center that will support the Homeland Security Operations Center and homeland security officials in assessment and decision-making based upon information derived from the National Bio-Surveillance Integration System. This new center will ensure that food and agriculture are fully integrated into the National Bio-surveillance Integration System and ensure its protection under the national bio-defense plan.  The National Bio-Surveillance Integration System will be a significant improvement in our national bio-defense capability and will enhance our ability to detect and respond to all types of threats to our food supply chain, whether naturally occurring or intentionally introduced.