WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), joined Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) this week to introduce The Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act. The bill addresses the threat of agro-terrorism and ensures the safety of food put on the tables across the country. Congressman David Young (R-IA), Congressman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), and Congressman Dan Donovan (R-NY) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House.
“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,” McCaskill said. “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 bill makes sure the United States has preparedness policies in place to quickly respond to events threatening U.S. agriculture or food production systems—ultimately protecting these key industries which impact every American on a daily basis. The legislation requires the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, to elevate preparedness of our nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and natural disasters.
Examples from around the world demonstrate the need for such preparation. In 2002, Foot and Mouth Disease in the UK necessitated the killing of 6 million animals and an economic loss estimated to be $10-20 billion. In 1997 in Taiwan, 4 million hogs were killed and the country lost $7 billion. A similar outbreak in the US would have much greater consequences and costs. Department of Homeland Security works to ensure preparedness planning and response in the event of a crisis – natural or an act of terrorism – in our food and agricultural sector – to prevent or limit the spread of diseases among animals, plants, and humans.
Missouri is particularly at risk when it comes to agriculture threats. With almost 100,000 farms across the state spanning over 28 million acres, the agriculture industry generates $88.4 billion a year for the state’s economy. The state has the second largest number of farms in the country and is one of the top producers for a number of crops including long grain rice, cotton, soybean, and corn. One in ten Missouri jobs are in the agriculture or forestry industries.
McCaskill is a longtime advocate for farmers and ranchers in Missouri. Earlier this year, McCaskill introduced the bipartisan Sensible Environmental Protection Act with Republican Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho to provide relief to farmers who currently have to seek two separate and duplicative approvals for the use of standard pesticides on their crops. As part of her continued work for Missouri farmers, McCaskill was one of the few Democrats to oppose the Waters of the U.S. rule, saying the Environmental Protection Agency needs to “go back to the drawing board.” Additionally, McCaskill was a leader in the fight to pass the Farm Bill in 2014, and she took bipartisan action against protectionist measures by Russia that are harming Missouri agriculture exports and U.S. job growth. In the summer of 2015, she embarked on a statewide Agriculture Tour where she heard directly from a wide variety of producers, farmers, ranchers, researchers, and other stakeholders in all corners of the state on Missouri’s agriculture needs.
Visit mccaskill.senate.gov/defense to learn more about McCaskill’s fight to strengthen national security.