U.S. Senator Pat Roberts’ (R-KS) agro-terrorism bill was approved by the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) last week. Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, introduced the bipartisan legislation with Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
Agro-terrorism, and other high-risk events, pose serious threats to food, agriculture, and livestock industries across the United States. 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 the 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.
“This legislation reiterates the important and necessary role of the DHS in the agro-terrorism space,” said Senator Roberts. “As DHS continues to build the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas, 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.”
The legislation now goes to the full Senate for debate. Reps. David Young (R-IA), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), and Dan Donovan (R-NY) introduced the legislation in the House.