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White House sets new food and ag security focus

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Recently, the National Security Memorandum to Strengthen the Security and Resilience of U.S. Food and Agriculture was signed. This new memorandum allows the federal government to identify threats facing domestic supply and enhance national preparedness and response. 

This past year alone, the U.S. agricultural and food industries have faced a range of threats to security and resilience. Representing over $1 trillion per year and 19 million jobs, these sectors are critical to American health and the economy. 

»Related: House bill introduced to increase market access for American farmers

The memorandum instructs top government officials — including the Secretaries of State, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy — to identify threats to the food and agriculture sector and coordinate with federal, state, local, and tribal governments to develop responses.

By next year, a comprehensive, data-driven, sector-specific, risk assessment for the food and agricultural sector has been promised. Risks will be prioritized for both sectors which will be reviewed and updated annually. A risk assessment will also be completed and submitted to the president with a strategy and plan of action with information on security and resilience capabilities, costs, benefits, and risk mitigation analysis. 

The memorandum also includes plans to maintain and enhance the National Veterinary Stockpile, National Plant Disease Recovery System, and the U.S. National Plant Germplasm System.

“Our agricultural sector faces a variety of threats that could inhibit cattle producers’ ability to bring beef from pasture to plate,” said NCBA CEO Colin Woodall. “NCBA appreciates the Biden administration’s focus on identifying threats and developing new ways to mitigate them. Together, we can protect our industry while ensuring that all Americans have access to wholesome foods like beef.”

According to the memorandum, the threats include those that are chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) in nature, particularly ones that may result in high-consequence and catastrophic incidents affecting the food and agriculture sector. The document says they include but are not limited to hazardous contaminants such as poisonous agents including toxic industrial compounds and materials, toxins, and chemical agents and precursors; natural or genetically engineered pests and pathogens of livestock, poultry, fish, shellfish, wildlife, plants, and insects; and physical effects of nuclear detonations or dispersion of radioactive materials.

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