KANSAS CITY – Protecting against threats to agricultural industries and food supplies was the focus of a roundtable discussion today led by Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Pat Roberts of Kansas and hosted by the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City.
The event included Missouri and Kansas stakeholders in addition to key officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services. Earlier this summer, President Trump signed into law the Senators’ bill to address the threat of agro-terrorism and mitigate the risks to food put on tables across the country.
“An attack on Missouri food or agriculture could jeopardize people’s lives and devastate our economy,” said McCaskill, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Senator Roberts and I joined together this summer to pass our agro-terrorism bill so we can be better prepared to prevent and respond to threats to food and agriculture. Bringing folks together from national agencies, the Missouri National Guard, and Missouri’s agriculture industry was an important opportunity to discuss how we can all work together to protect Missouri’s farmers and ranchers, and the food we all eat every day.”
“Securing our food supply is a critical component of our national security,” said Roberts. “As the backbone of the U.S. economy, the spread of any deadly pathogen among our livestock and plant population would be devastating. As we discussed today, our partnership in this effort is critical, and I am proud of the work leaders in our states and the federal government are doing in the agro-terrorism space. By ensuring DHS is coordinating the nation’s response to these threats, we ensure food and agriculture remain a national security priority.”
At the roundtable, participants discussed Roberts and McCaskill’s “Securing Our Agriculture and Food Act,” which President Trump signed into law earlier this summer. It ensures the Secretary of Homeland Security, through the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs, does its part to secure our nation’s food, agriculture, and veterinary systems against terrorism and high-risk events. The bill also authorizes the Secretary to collaborate with other agencies, to ensure food, agriculture, and animal and human health sectors receive attention and preparedness policies and initiatives are coordinated.
Missouri and Kansas are particularly at risk when it comes to agriculture threats. The states are home to over 74 million acres of farms, and agriculture products sold in the states value over $27 billion. In 2014 and 2015, a bird flu outbreak forced Missouri farmers to kill almost 30,000 turkeys and chickens and cost the nation between $1 and 3.3 billion in total losses. In 2016, 17 people were hospitalized because of an E. coli outbreak linked to a General Mills facility in Kansas City, Mo.
Roundtable participants included Department of Homeland Security Acting Under Secretary for the Science and Technology Directorate William N. Bryan, Adjutant General of Kansas Major General Lee Taffanelli, Missouri National Guard LTC Robert Payne, and officials at the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Agriculture, and the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.