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Agro-terrorism roundtable focuses on U.S. food security

Source: Wikimedia Commons

A panel discussed security regarding the nation’s food supply at an Agro-terrorism roundtable.

The roundtable discussion, hosted by Agricultural Business Council, was held Friday at the American Royal Offices in Kansas City, Missouri. The panel, featuring Ag industry leaders, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO), discussed the importance of protecting the nation’s food supply. Senator Roberts serves as chairman for the Senate Agriculture Committee. At the roundtable, Roberts said food security is national security.

“The devastating ramifications of being ill-prepared for a malicious attack or a natural disaster on our food supply would be absolutely overwhelming,” Roberts said. “We’ve had several exercises to prove that. However, those consequences can and should be mitigated to research prevention and preparedness. Many federal agencies play a role in this important mission,” Roberts said.

The Department of Homeland Security plays an important role in protecting the nation’s food supply, as outlined in the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act. The Act, sponsored by Senator Roberts and Senator McCaskill, makes the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Health Affairs responsible for coordinating the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security related to food, agriculture and veterinary defense against terrorism.

“We have endeavored to put legislation, directing the Department of Homeland Security with regard to Presidential Directive No. 9, a national policy to defend agriculture and food systems against terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies. This is absolutely imperative to our national security, and our new law has codified the 2004 directive, so that DHS permanently continues to play this very critical and coordinating role,” Roberts said.

William Bryan is Undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security. Bryan said the Department’s role in protecting the nation’s food supply should not be underestimated.

“Don’t underestimate the importance and value of a coordination role,” Bryan said. “I have been with the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and now I’m at the Department of Homeland Security. I see when that communication role and coordination role breaks down, and the problems that come from that.”

Bryan added every stakeholder plays an important role when it comes to food security.

“No one ever planned or could have planned for a plane to land on the Hudson River, but it did,” Bryan said. “The response worked because all the pieces, players and stakeholders who had a role to play were coordinated in what their roles where and when needed, it happened. In this sector, it’s very much the same way. We’re not sure where, in fact, that attack is going to come from, but everybody in the agencies have a role to play, both in the industry, as well as the federal government, state and local authorities and the National Guard. All will have a role to play in that, so that coordination role is very critical.”