September 2005 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Health and Human Services? Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced on July 26 a new collaboration with states and private industry to protect the nation?s food supply from terrorist threats.
The Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative supports President Bush?s requirements directing the government to work closely with states and industry to secure the nation?s food supply. Four pilot visits will be conducted in September and October for the purpose of assessing and identifying vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors.
?This partnership brings together all of the organizations that have the best knowledge and abilities in safeguarding the food we eat, starting from the farm all the way to our kitchen tables,? says FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford, Ph.D.
This effort is the second major joint initiative for the federal partners. In May, the FBI, with the support of DHS, USDA and FDA, hosted the first ever International Symposium for Agrosecurity in Kansas City, Mo. Chairman of the American Sheep Industry Association?s (ASI) Research and Education Council and Region IV director, Lyndon Irwin, Ph.D., attended the conference and says he understands the great importance of the various governmental agencies cooperating in the protection of our food supply.
?This includes efforts both within USDA and also in other areas of government that we typically don?t think of when it comes to food, such as the FBI, CDC (Center for Disease Control) and the military. Without that greater level of cooperation and communication, agencies could easily miss important clues as a terrorist threat develops,? says Irwin.
Over the next year, teams of federal and state officials will travel to all 50 states to meet with all sectors of the food chain. Together, the federal, state and private industry partners will discuss security issues from farm-to-table and consider ways to better protect our food supply.
Although Irwin doesn?t believe the U.S. sheep industry to be a major target for terrorism, he says that we cannot be complacent and not pay attention.
?As our government coordinates its antiterrorism efforts, it is important to recognize that this does not just include international terrorism. Some domestic groups who are opposed to the use of animals as food or for other purposes have also been included under the definition of terrorists,? explains Irwin. ?ASI supports our government?s antiterrorism efforts and also encourages the proper care and management of sheep as outlined in ASI?s Sheep Care Guide. Practicing good biosecurity is not only important as our industry avoids potential terrorism; it?s just plain wise from an overall disease prevention standpoint.?