Legislation Introduced in U.S. House and Senate Addressing Agro-Terrorism Threats to Nation’s Food Supply

Mar 2, 2017 Issues: National Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Congressman David Young (R-IA), and Congressman Dan Donovan (R-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to address the threat of agro-terrorism and ensure the safety of food put on the tables of American families. Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. Senate.

“I am very proud to join with Congressmen David Young and Dan Donovan to introduce this critical legislation to protect our nation’s food system from terrorist threats,” said Congressman Payne, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. “Any attack on our food supply could have devastating consequences on our economy and our communities, so it’s essential that we mitigate against potential threats. With this bill, we are addressing critical security vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.”

“The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act is a vital step to protect our food supply and agriculture industries in Iowa from high-risk events and agro-terrorism,” Congressman Young said. “I am honored to be working with a group of bipartisan colleagues from both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to continue the efforts I started last Congress that ensure the safety and reliability of our nation’s food supply. It is imperative our families and communities must always have the confidence the bounty of our growers and producers is protected.”

“Our nation’s enemies are intent on attacking us by exploiting our resources and vulnerabilities, including our food supply,” said Congressman Donovan, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications. “Threats to U.S food, agriculture, and livestock industries could devastate our food system, impacting millions of Americans, as well as our economy. This bill is essential to enhancing agro-terrorism preparedness and emergency response measures, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this legislation.”

“I have introduced this legislation in the Senate because it reiterates the important and necessary role of the DHS in the agro-terrorism space,” said Senator Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. “As DHS continues to build the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan., now is the exact time to shore up authorities regarding coordination and mitigation should the worst occur and the nation is hit by a biological attack on our food and agriculture. As former Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I understand the unique threat our farmers and ranchers face. As the backbone of the U.S. economy, the spread of any deadly pathogen among our livestock and plant population would cause irreparable damage. I look forward to continuing to work with DHS and USDA, which play equally important roles, in protecting our homeland’s food supply.”

“We don’t always think of a terrorist attack as a deliberate, mass food contamination, or the danger a major disease outbreak could pose. But agriculture is Missouri’s most important industry, and Congress needs to think forward about the wide array of threats we face and take action before there’s a tragedy, not afterwards,” said Senator McCaskill, Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This bill is an example of setting aside differences to work across the aisle to keep American families safe, and that’s the greatest responsibility I have.”

Our nation faces global and complex national security challenges. Agro-terrorism, and other high-risk events, pose serious threats to our food, agriculture, and livestock industries across the United States. It is imperative we have preparedness policies in place to quickly respond to events threatening U.S. agriculture or food production systems – ultimately protecting these key industries which impact every Americans on a daily basis. The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act requires the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to lead the government’s efforts to secure our nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. The bill also authorizes the secretary to collaborate with other agencies, to ensure food, agriculture, and animal and human health sectors receive attention and are integrated into the DHS’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives.

The bill was introduced and referred to the Homeland Security, Energy and Commerce, and Agriculture Committees. A text of the bill can be found here.