Testimony ofof The Honorable Ann M. Veneman, Secretary of Agriculture
Before the Select Committee on Homeland Security United States House of
Representatives July 16, 2002
The Honorable Ann M.
Secretary of Agriculture Before the Select Committee on Homeland Security
United States House of
July 16, 2002
Mr. Chairman and Members
of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the
Presidents proposal for a new Department of Homeland Security.
The President has
put forth a bold and historic plan aimed at better protecting our nation from
potential terrorist threats in the future.The Presidents approach is to bring together agencies currently with
missions related to the protection of our homeland and merge them into a single
agency that will better protect, better prepare and better coordinate this
extraordinary vision, new thinking and the ability to look at the much larger
issue at hand and that is again, the protection of our citizens against
And, I must say,
we have appreciated the leadership role of this Committee and Members of both
the House and the Senate for the strong role you have played in moving forward
with this Legislation.
For the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the events of September 11
changed forever the context in which we do our work, as has been the case in so
many other federal agencies.In the
past, the focus of most of our efforts has been to prevent and deter the
unintentional introduction of pests and diseases from entering our
Beginning in February 2001, our systems were put to the test, when we
saw the devastating impacts of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United
Kingdom and other parts of Europe. At the time, USDA initiated an aggressive
strategy to prevent FMD from reaching our country by providing technical
support to Great Britain, increasing staffing at ports of entry around the
country by adding new border officers, detector dog teams, and port
We worked closely with state agriculture departments to strengthen our
coordination, training, and contingency plans, as well as launching public
information campaigns to educate the public about their role in helping keep
FMD out of the U.S.
the Presidents FY 2003 budget proposal and supplemental appropriations by the
Congress, we continue those efforts today.Our border protection personnel levels will be at their highest levels
ever, and investments in the areas of research, laboratory upgrades, security,
have enhanced our ability to prepare and respond to potential threats to
much needed resources not only help protect against unintentional threats, but
they are helping as we deal directly with the potential acts of terrorism that
we now face in the wake of September 11th.
the potential of intentional threats
to agricultural production and our food supply have required us to do much
more.We have been working closely with
other federal agencies, state agriculture departments, academia and the
agriculture sector, on many fronts to secure and strengthen planning and
example, we have expedited work with U.S. Customs Service to implement an automated inspection targeting system.We have collaborated with research
universities and state agriculture departments to step up the development of
rapid detection systems, expand our network of diagnostic laboratories,
strengthen pest and disease surveillance, better secure and strengthen laboratories,
and improve emergency preparedness capabilities.
While a great deal of work has been done in a very short amount of time,
the job is far from over.We cannot let
down our guard.When it comes to
protecting U.S. agriculture and our food supply, we must continuously improve
and strengthen our protection capabilities.
Governor Ridge and I enjoy a strong working relationship and I can tell
you he understands clearly the importance of USDAs role in homeland
security.In the months since he became
the Presidents advisor on these issues, I have grown to appreciate his
knowledge and understanding of the complex issues throughout federal
This is why the Presidents proposal for a Department of Homeland
Security is so critical.In putting
forth his proposal, the President made clear the important role agriculture and
protecting the food supply, by including parts of the USDA in that plan, the
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and the Plum Island Animal
Disease Center. This is a clear recognition of APHIS vital mission as it
relates to homeland security.
There has been considerable discussion about the best way to protect
America and the vital role that USDAs APHIS programs serve in that regard.
Many States, industries, and other stakeholders have provided valuable input
regarding the move of APHIS to the Department of Homeland Security
and the ongoing programs within APHIS that are not directly associated with the
protection of our homeland.
These programs include protecting livestock
from predators; eradicating boll weevil, fruit flies, and brucellosis;
controlling rabies in wildlife; negotiating with foreign countries on technical
requirements for U.S. exports and imports, biotechnology, animal welfare, as well
as other programs.
In the past few weeks, the House Agriculture Committee has worked with
the Administration to refine the Presidents proposal.The result of that work appears in the
Committees amendment which moves the specialized border inspection and
enforcement functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as the
Plum Island Disease Facility, to the new Department.
The Administration looks forward to working with Congress so that the final
bill provides the Secretary of Homeland Security the coordinating authorities
required to ensure integrated plans to address the threat of agroterrorism.
House Agriculture Committees amendment is consistent with the Presidents goal
of unifying the border and transportation security functions of many Federal
agencies.It affirms the critical role
played by inspections of agricultural cargo, conveyances, and international
passengers.It acknowledges the close
partnerships USDA inspection personnel have developed with the U.S. Customs
Service, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the U.S. Border
also recognizes the importance of USDA working with the new Department in
training homeland security inspection personnel involved in examining cargo,
passengers, and trade in food and agricultural products.Finally, the amendment recognizes that the
transfer of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center is integral to the Department
of Homeland Security.
short, the transfer of APHIS agricultural quarantine inspection program and
the Plum Island Animal Disease Center to the Department of Homeland Security is
the right step to take to protect our Nations security and agricultural
Mr. Chairman, again, I thank you for this opportunity to appear before
you today.I appreciate your
leadership, and that of this Committee in addressing the important issues
related to homeland security, particularly as it relates to the protection of
agriculture and our food supply.
I look forward to answering your questions today and a continued
dialogue on these and other issues in the future.