WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today praised the Administration for issuing a directive that “establishes a national policy to defend the agriculture and food system against terrorist attacks, major disasters, and other emergencies.” Senator Collins held a hearing on agroterrorism in November 2003 and urged President Bush to take steps to address agroterrorism in his policy on critical infrastructure protection.
“Our agricultural and food sectors remain vulnerable to terrorist attack,” said Senator Collins, whose committee has jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security. “Even the threat of attack could jeopardize consumer confidence, disrupt commodity markets, and wreak economic havoc.
“With dozens of federal agencies involved in responding to an agroterrorist attack, there is an urgent need to implement a clear governmentwide response plan. I’m pleased that with today’s directive, the President has set such a plan in motion,” said Senator Collins.
According to testimony delivered at the Committee’s hearing on agroterrorism, the agricultural industry is particularly vulnerable to attack because there is a lack of farm- and food-related security and surveillance; the disease reporting system is inefficient and passive; and veterinarian training tends not to emphasize foreign animal diseases.
In November, Senator Collins sent a letter to President Bush urging him to coordinate the efforts of dozens of federal agencies that share responsibility for preventing or responding to an agroterrorist attack. In the event of a foot and mouth outbreak, for example, more than 30 agencies may be involved in the responding to the event.
The President’s directive is available online at http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/02/20040203-2.html.