Ann M. Veneman Secretary of Agriculture Before The Senate Committee
On Appopriations Commerce, Justice, State And The Judiciary Subcommittee
Ann M. Veneman Secretary of Agriculture
Before The Senate Committee On Appropriations Commerce, Justice, State
And The Judiciary Subcommittee
MAY 9, 2001
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee, it is an honor for me
to appear before you to discuss the Department of Agricultures (USDA)
role in combating terrorism.
I want to begin by thanking the members of this Committee for
their support of USDA programs and for the long history of effective
cooperation between the members of this Committee and the Department. Further,
I want to thank you for this opportunity to outline USDAs efforts to
protect the 'nations food supply and agricultural infrastructure from the
threat of terrorism. Our goal is to make sure the food supply and agricultural
infrastructure are safe and protected from the variety of hazards that pose a
threat. We evaluate threats against the food supply and agricultural
infrastructure and apply our resources as appropriate. Our focus, to date, has
been on naturally occurring threats since they historically have posed the
As we look at potential global threats, USDA has heightened its
efforts to ensure that intentional acts do not threaten the safety of the
nations food supply or agricultural infrastructure. Efforts in this area
have utilized existing authorities and resources within our appropriations.
Although USDA receives no substantial appropriations to specifically combat
terrorism, several of our existing programs do perform roles that improve the
Departments ability to deal with such threats.
We certainly take seriously any action that might threaten the safety of
the nations food supply or agricultural infrastructure.USDAs Office
of Inspector General vigorously investigates any such threats in close
coordination with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.
To help ensure the safety of the nations food supply,
several of our existing programs do perform roles that improve the
Departments ability to combat terrorism. We continuously review our food
safety programs to ensure regulations and programs are protecting consumers.
The best way to deal with threats to the nations food
supply and agricultural infrastructure is to prevent and deter intentional or
unintentional introduction of plant and animal diseases into the U.S. I have
said many times that pests and animal disease prevention and eradication
programs are central to USDAs ability to protect the nations food
supply and agriculture infrastructure. Simply put, the best offense is a good
As you know, the details of the President's Fiscal Year (FY)
Budget were released on April 9th. The Department is requesting
appropriations for FY 2002 that total $76 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion
for the Department's on-going programs. While no substantial portion of this
funding is specifically proposed to combat terrorism, a portion of these funds
devoted to plant and animal health and food safety, including research, will
promote underlying support for our ability to combat threats to the
nations food and fiber supply and agricultural infrastructure, no matter
what the source.
I want to emphasize that the levels of funding that we are
recommending in our FY 2002 budget proposal be supported. This budget was
developed to include sufficient funding to carry out key priorities that
improve the safety of the nations food supply and agricultural
infrastructure such as:
Ensuring we have the funding and legal authorities necessary to
strengthen our agricultural quarantine inspection activities and combat pest
and disease infestations, no matter what the cause;
Providing adequate funding for our food safety activities, particularly
the meat and poultry inspection workforce of the Food Safety and Inspection
Service; and Funding ongoing central administration functions that assist the
Department in combating terrorism.
for FY 2002, we are requesting an increase of $174 million in
appropriations for Animal and Plan Health Inspection Service (APHIS) programs
that will allow us to continue emergency programs underway in FY 2001.
With the recent focus on various plant and animal disease issues,
such as Foot and Mouth Disease, the Department has stepped up its interdiction
efforts. I have authorized the use of an additional $32 million of AQI user
fees over two years beginning in FY 2001 in order to provide more inspection
resources at borders and ports of entry as soon as possible. While not focused
on a potential terrorist act, it is obvious that these additional resources
will support the Departments efforts to protect our nations food
supply and agricultural infrastructure from any effort to introduce contraband
into the U.S.
Together with our appropriations request, funding will rise by
almost 40 percent increase over FY 2000 levels for the Agricultural Quarantine
Inspection (AQI) program in order to increase the level of inspections along
U.S. borders and ports of entry. yes"> We will be able to increase
staffing in the AQI program by over 900 by the end of FY 2002 -- more than 35
percent higher than FY 2000. While this effort mostly interdicts efforts to
bring contraband products into the US, it is clear that an efficiently managed
regulatory environment also deters the attempted introduction of contraband
into the U.S. for terrorist purposes.
USDA has also taken steps to improve the Departments coordination
of national security and crisis management issues with the recent creation of
the Departmental-level Office of Crisis Planning and Management (OCPM).
This office is helping to ensure that the Department effectively coordinates
and integrates use of its existing resources and is working in concert with
USDA agencies and offices to promote close coordination with other Federal
agencies in the areas of national security and crisis management.
USDA chairs the Protection of Agriculture and Food Supply System
Subgroup for the Weapons of Mass Destruction Preparedness (WMDP) Group, working
with a broad range of agencies on preparedness and protection of critical
agriculture infrastructure and the food supply system.Additionally, USDA
provides representation to the other WMDP Subgroups.
An important step that USDA has taken in recent months is to
redouble our emergency preparedness efforts to coordinate with other Federal
agencies. Much of this coordination has been focused primarily on managing the
consequences of a potential Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak in the U.S. While
such an outbreak continues to appear unlikely, USDA has intensified our crisis
management efforts to ensure that if we ever faced an emergency situation, we
are prepared with a swift and full Federal response, which is not limited to
USDA, but includes the entire Federal government.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition among the
emergency management and law enforcement communities that the nations
agricultural system is, in fact, a critical infrastructure and that any
disruption of this infrastructure system would have both significant emergency
management and economic impacts.
To enhance the nations ability to respond to an agricultural
crisis, USDA has been working to improve the level of coordination at the
local, State, and Federal levels between agricultural interests, law
enforcement, and emergency management.
This effort has led to an emerging relationship with such
organizations as the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). While
these efforts have previously focused on responding to naturally occurring
agricultural crises, such as a hurricane or major flooding, USDA is currently
emphasizing the need to coordinate it efforts to respond to terrorist acts
against U.S. agricultural interests.
Our concentrated efforts have also focused within USDA on the
safety of our employees and the protection of USDA facilities.The USDA Office
of Inspector General, along with other USDA law enforcement and security
entities, has established favorable working relationships with federal, state,
and local law enforcement officials and the intelligence community to ensure
the safety of USDA employees and a safe working environment. We recently
expanded the scope and frequency of these contacts to make sure we are fully
aware of current threats.
Of additional note, the Forest Service maintains a Law
Enforcement and Investigations (LEI) program.The LEI program has become
recognized by other federal agencies as an expert on eco-terrorism. This
expertise has arisen, as a direct result of prior criminal and small-scale
domestic terrorist acts committed against Forest Service facilities and
employees related to logging and forest management.
Our coordination efforts with other Federal agencies also
continue. We are reviewing the Federal Response Plan and reevaluating the
Departments responsibilities as outlined in the plan. We are working with
other Federal agencies in an effort to more completely define the functions
that should be included in the Plan regarding to animal and plant health, food
safety and production agriculture. We want to ensure that the resources of USDA
are fully integrated into the Federal response to any disaster.
USDA is currently capable of adequately responding to natural,
accidental, and inadvertent introductions of exotic diseases and pests.
However, should there be a widespread intentional introduction of an exotic
disease or pest in multiple locations simultaneously, USDA would look to our
Federal, state, and local partners for additional support.
In closing, I would like to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and the
Committee, for this opportunity to discuss the Department of Agricultures
role in combating terrorism. Protecting the nations food supply and
agricultural infrastructure from all threats is central to our mission and
central to the future economic prosperity of the United States of