Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman
On Homeland Security
for the opportunity to provide an update on the Departments efforts on
We have a
longstanding commitment to food safety and securing the food supply and
agriculture from threats.
just after assuming office, we dealt with the threat of foot and mouth disease
as we watched the widespread outbreak in England.
strengthened our surveillance and response systems as we dealt with the threat
of that disease a disease we had not had in this country for over 70 years.
USDA released a report, Food and Agriculture Policy: Taking Stock for the New
Century which looked at the future issues facing the food system from farm
programs to trade to rural development to conservation to food safety.
One of the
issues the report highlighted was the importance of the infrastructure that
protects our food supply our food safety systems, our pest and disease
protection program, and the research that supports these important missions.
the events of 9/11 we are also examining threats to our food supply as homeland
We are now
concerned about intentional and well as unintentional threats.
September 11, we took immediate steps to secure sensitive facilities and
examine vulnerabilities throughout the food chain.
ensuing days and months, we have conducted assessments to identify the critical
needs to fill security gaps.
coordinated within the Administration and ultimately formed the basis for the
Presidents proposals submitted to Congress.
recognized the need for an internal structure to coordinate the Departments
vast array of programs and communicate efficiently to meet pressing security
established the USDA Homeland Security Council (headed by Deputy Secretary
Moseley) to manage our responsibilities in this area.
Council has three subcouncils, each chaired or co-chaired by a USDA subcabinet
·Protection of the Food Supply and Agricultural production
·Protecting USDA Facilities and Other Infrastructure
·Protecting USDA Staff and Emergency Preparedness
Council has performed a critical role in coordinating the efforts we are
undertaking, including those funded through the supplemental passed in
before the supplemental was signed by the President on January 10, we started
developing plans for the use of the funds.
I want to
thank the Committee for providing flexibility in the allocation of the
taken this opportunity to rather intensively review our needs and direct funds
to fill gaps.
a number of areas where multiple agencies are involved.
working with other federal agencies, state departments of agriculture and
industry to coordinate and plan homeland security efforts .these are important
As soon as
we finalized our decisions, we sent information to the Agriculture
Appropriations Subcommittee on the allocation of the funds and we subsequently
provided briefings for Subcommittee staff.
All of the
supplemental funds have now been allocated to the agencies.
following is a breakdown of where those resources are being spent.
one-half of these funds, or about $177 million, is being used to make physical
and operational security improvements at key locations.
includes $64 million at the animal disease center in Ames, Iowa.
allows us to immediately relocate APHIS labs from leased space onto the main
supports construction of a biosecurity level 3 large animal facility.
for this facility is underway and the construction contract is expected to be
awarded by the end of next fiscal year.
also $23 million for Plum Island, pending the outcome of a broad independent
review of the needs and options for this work, including the needs for
biosecurity level 4 facilities.
also directed $35 million to strengthen the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection
our first line of defense to exclude agricultural pests and diseases at the
funds are to accelerate the development of an automated system in coordination
with Customs Service to better identify cargo to be inspected.
also purchasing 100 rapid pathogen identification devices and hire additional
staff to conduct intensified inspections.
million has been provided to FSIS for increased monitoring, training to
inspectors on terrorist threats and expanded technical capabilities.
directed an additional $1.5 million to hire additional inspectors for imported
meat and poultry.
million has been allocated to ARS for development ofimproved rapid detection technologies, for Foot and Mouth Disease
and other pathogens.
recognize that the Federal government will need assistance from our cooperators
at the State and local levels to adequately address homeland security
We plan to provide over $43 million in grants and
other assistance to states to assist in strengthening our partnerships and
efforts in this area include:
·Improved surveillance and early detection and response
capabilities, both for animal and plant pests and diseases.
·Enhanced infrastructures for rapid detection and diagnosis
of animal and plant disease and pest threats.
·Additional capability throughout the Nation so that we can
quickly detect and correctly diagnose disease symptoms.
·Increased capacity to dispose of animal carcasses.
·Increased capacity in each region of the country to safely
dispose of animal carcasses in the event of a major disease outbreak.
information technologies provide exciting capabilities to greatly improve our
ability to respond to plant and animal pest and disease outbreaks.
developing a system that relies on geographic information system technologies
to provide capabilities for real-time mapping to predict spread and
consequences of outbreaks.
Chairman, I would also like to point out that our FY 2003 Budget includes a
number of increases to strengthen the agricultural infrastructure and enhance
include increases for pest and disease exclusion, surveillance, response and
research directed at threats faced by the agriculture and food system.
approved by the Congress, our budget allocations would bring our funding and
staffing at ports of entry to record levels, more than doubling from where they
were just three years ago.
propose funds to address the very real threat of disruption to our computer
provided details of these proposals to the Agriculture Appropriations
Subcommittee and in my written testimony today.
I urge the
Committees support for these critically important proposals.
want to point out an item in the Presidents pending supplemental.
requesting an additional $75 million for the WIC program.
funds are important to ensure adequate resources to continue to meet the
caseload levels we are experiencing.
tied largely to higher than predicted growth in WIC participation and food
January, the WIC program served over 7.5 million participants, for an average
of 7.46 million so far this fiscal year.
We have no
reason to believe that these trends will moderate during the remainder of the
summary, I believe we have set up an effective structure to address the
critical homeland security issues related to protection of the Nations
agriculture and food supply.
appreciate the Committees interest in these critical issues and the support
you have given to our efforts.
mentioned, last year at this time, we were facing a very serious threat of foot
and mouth disease as we saw the devastation that occurred in the U.K.
events while not a food safety concern led us to further strengthen our
immediately to do so and, as a result, we were probably better prepared to
respond in the aftermath of the tragedies of September 11th.
vigilance hasnt stopped, nor our commitment to work with the Congress, states,
other federal agencies, academia, and the private sector to make sure we have a
strong line of defense.
continue to work with you and your staff to meet the rapidly evolving
challenges we face in securing our food supply and agricultural infrastructure.
concludes my comments.I will be glad
to respond to your questions.