By Sarah Everhart
The Securing our Agriculture and Food Act (the “Act”) is a House bill which has passed the Senate and is headed back to the House for small amendments before going to President Trump for his signature. The Act aims to prepare the federal government for dealing with a terrorist attack on the nation’s food supply or agro-terrorism. The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Ranking Member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, in the Senate and U.S. Reps. David Young (R-IA), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), and Dan Donovan (R-NY) in the House.
Rep. Young first introduced a version of the Act in the House following the 2015 avian flu outbreak. According to Rep. Young, the response to that outbreak “…revealed problematic breaks in the federal government’s ability to communicate with the people and react quickly to large-scale animal disease outbreaks. This disaster also raised concerns among farmers and producers about whether our nation would be able to quickly and effectively share information and respond to agro-terrorism threats and bio-attacks, ultimately an attack against the safety and reliability of food supplies consumers rely on.”
If signed into law, the Act will require the Secretary of Homeland Security, acting through the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Health Affairs, to carry out a government program coordinating the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to secure our nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and other events posing a risk to homeland security. The Act will also require the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate with other federal departments and agencies, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, on activities related to food and agriculture security.