Young presses DHS on implementation of agro-terror protections
Rep. Young: Cole Staudt – 202-225-5476
Rep. Donovan: Patrick Ryan – 718-351-1062
Rep. Payne: Kyle Alagood – 202-225-3436
Sen. Roberts: Sarah Little – 202-224-4774
Sen. McCaskill: Drew Pusateri – 202-228-4595
WASHINGTON – On Thursday November 2, bipartisan members of Congress sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to inquire about the implementation of the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (SAFA).
The letter was led by Congressman David Young (R-IA), Congressman Daniel Donovan (R-NY), Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ), Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO).
In the letter, the group requests the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to share specifically how the department is incorporating agro-terrorism and other events into preparedness planning following the enactment of SAFA, and a planned reorganization of certain chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear functions.
SAFA addressed concerns the federal government wasn’t prepared to handle large-scale animal disease outbreaks, agro-terrorism threats, and securing the nation’s food supply from those who seek to exploit deficiencies.
The new law requires DHS to elevate the preparedness of our nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. Additionally, it authorizes DHS to collaborate with other agencies, to ensure food, agriculture, and animal and human health sectors receive attention and are integrated into DHS’s domestic preparedness policy initiatives.
Full text of the letter below. Click here to see the signed letter.
Dear Acting Secretary Duke:
On June 30, 2017, President Trump signed the bipartisan Securing our Agriculture and Food Act into law. This law requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to carry out a program to defend the U.S. food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and other high-risk events. More recently, DHS provided authorizing committees with notice about a departmental reorganization of certain chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear functions into a new Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWMD) Office pursuant to Section 872 of the Homeland Security Act. We write to receive an update on the DHS’s continuing work on agro-terrorism issues, following the enactment of this law and the planned reorganization.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, U.S. agriculture and food industries contribute approximately $990 billion to the U.S. economy annually. Food safety is also a deeply personal issue and maintaining consumer confidence in the food supply chain is very important.
To better understand the Department’s efforts to ensure the security of food, agriculture, and veterinary systems, we request clarity on the following questions:
- How is DHS working to incorporate agro-terrorism and other events impacting the agriculture sector into preparedness planning?
- Who is leading the DHS efforts until the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs is appointed? Who will be leading DHS efforts when the new CWMD entity is formed?
- As with other terrorism preparedness efforts, interagency coordination is crucial for effective prevention, mitigation, and response strategies. How is DHS working with other federal, state, and local entities to ensure a coordinated, integrated response system to agro-terrorism and other high risk threats to the agriculture sector?
- Are DHS and its federal, state, and local partners conducting vulnerability assessments and expanding monitoring and surveillance efforts?
- How will DHS improve its agricultural tracking systems, including training for field staff?
- How does DHS envision National Bio and Agro-defense Facility helping to meet the requirements of the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act?
We appreciate your commitment to keeping Americans safe and we look forward to your prompt response to our inquiries.