Learn what actions are being taken to protect U.S. agriculture.
Keeping American lives protected doesn’t fall solely on our government bodies, it starts further down the line with our farmers, ranchers, and landowners. Agriculture biosecurity is one of the greatest defenses our nation has against widespread illness, both unintentional and targeted, across food chains. In recent years, biosecurity has garnered a great deal of public interest in way of perceived external threats, rapidly evolving pest and disease resistance, and improving technology and monitoring systems.
Agroterrorism is perhaps one of the greater and growing concerns for the agriculture industry. Learn what measures are being taken both on and off the farm to safeguard our nation’s food sources.
Understanding the Impact of Agroterrorism on Agriculture
According to law firm Smith, Gambrell & Russell LLP, “An agroterrorism event would likely result in travel restrictions on humans and animals, and preventive destruction of crops and herds in the affected areas. The impact on banks, supply houses, and the transportation industry, as well as landowners, could be devastating.”
In the United States, the agriculture industry is highly developed in such a way that less than 2% of the U.S. population grows food for our nation and other parts of the world. Agroterrorism, defined as the introduction of disease-causing pathogens to harm crops or animals, presents a serious challenge to our nation’s food security. This form of terrorism is designed to cause fear and to disrupt the long-term viability of the targeted nation’s economy.
To protect our nation, the U.S. government routinely monitors for these terrorist acts, trying to prevent the destruction of crops and livestock, economic losses to farmers and ranchers, and harm to our national security.
Increased Efforts Around Food Safety and Defense
Agriculture provides the essentials of life. The industry’s products make the largest contribution to the nation’s trade balance. And with globalization, the U.S. food supply takes a complex path from farm to fork, as the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) explains.
The federation reports that food from the nation’s two million farms collectively passes through 167,000 processing facilities, manufacturing plants, warehouses, and distribution centers. In the event of an outbreak or attack, the U.S. government would have to act swiftly to contain the contamination and prevent a widespread outbreak.
A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office shows that since 2001, multiple agencies have banded together to create networks of laboratories to diagnose animal, plant, and human diseases. They have conducted assessments to determine weak points in agriculture infrastructure. The agencies also initiated a program, which stockpiles vaccinations for foreign animal diseases to prepare for outbreaks that may occur abroad.
Opportunities to Improve Food Security Measures
Despite all the current measures, government audits have found room for improvement. In 2018, the Office of Inspector General released a report specifically focused on three divisions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that address issues related to agroterrorism and emergency preparedness: the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Agricultural Research Service, and the Food Safety and Inspection Service.
“We found the agencies developed plans and initiated actions to prevent, detect, and respond to agroterrorism threats or attacks,” the OIG reports. “However, we identified improvements the agencies can make to better track and report these actions.”
In addition, President Trump in 2017, signed the Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act, which requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Agriculture Department and others involved in national emergency management to protect the agriculture industry from agroterrorism.
In 2022, the U.S. government is scheduled to open the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, a $1.25 billion state-of-the-art, USDA biocontainment laboratory built for the study of diseases that threaten America’s animal agriculture industry and public health. This laboratory will represent the first in the United States to provide maximum biocontainment (BSL-4) space capable of handling cattle and other large livestock. This will be a major step forward in the prevention of foodborne illnesses and disease.
Farmers and Consumers can Help
Awareness goes a long way with food security. According to Jacqueline Fletcher, former director of the National Institute for Microbial Forensics & Food and Agricultural Biosecurity, “Farmers should have a plan for prevention, identification, and recovery.” One of the best ways to reduce exposure to foodborne diseases is to implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP). Both practices significantly help reduce farmworkers’ and consumers’ exposure to microbial contamination and disease sources.
Partner with an Agricultural Lender that Understands Your Operation
AgAmerica Lending encourages farmers to make plans for disease prevention, the same as they would plan for a natural disaster. We understand the risk involved in farming today, making our land loan specialists the perfect partner to help farms of all types find financial solutions to reach their goals. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 844.516.8176.