12.13.17

Chairman Roberts Emphasizes Importance of Agriculture Security

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, today held an agriculture security hearing, titled, “Safeguarding American Agriculture in a Globalized World.”

“In 1999, as Chairman of the newly-formed Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I became aware of the threat our nation faced against intentionally introduced pathogens to be weaponized and aimed at destroying plant and animal populations.”

“Biological threats, whether naturally occurring, like the avian influenza outbreak of 2015, or intentionally introduced, could pose great harm to our food supply and economy.”

“Today’s hearing is an opportunity to take stock in where we have come, since the early 2000s when the issue of agriculture security was first visited, and discuss where we need to go from here. The Agriculture Committee last held a hearing on this subject over a decade ago, but since that time the significance of this issue has only grown.”

During the hearing, Roberts examined the vulnerabilities of American farmers, ranchers, consumers, and economy from biological threats, as well as solutions to safeguard American agriculture from these threats.

Click here to watch Chairman Roberts' opening statement. Below are Chairman Roberts’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning. I call this meeting of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry to order.

I welcome my colleagues, and the witnesses before us today, as we hear about an issue I have long felt is of the utmost importance, not only to farmers, ranchers and the agricultural value chain, but also to consumers, the American economy and the safety of our country.

Agriculture security is a broad reaching issue and involves many government agencies, beyond the Department of Agriculture.

In 1999, as Chairman of the newly-formed Emerging Threats Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I became aware of the threat our nation faced against intentionally introduced pathogens to be weaponized and aimed at destroying plant and animal populations.

I was invited to Obolensk, once one of Russia’s secret cities, where I saw warehouses of anthrax, foot and mouth, Newcastle disease, and African swine fever.

Over the next several years, with a great deal of leadership from then K-State President, Dr. Jon Wefald, the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or “NBAF”, began to become a reality.

This facility in Manhattan, Kansas will be a critical part of keeping U.S. agriculture, our food supply, the economy, and most important, our people, safe. 

Biological threats, whether naturally occurring, like the avian influenza outbreak of 2015, or intentionally introduced, could pose great harm to our food supply and economy.

The 2015 Avian Influenza outbreak was unprecedented, and while USDA managed through the situation as well as could be expected, it illuminated just how vulnerable the agriculture sector is to such an event.

And, it’s made everyone involved begin to think about ways in which we can improve.

Whether that be communication, coordination, preparedness, response—there is always room to gather feedback, reassess and consider if our current approach is the best approach.

Further, today’s hearing is an opportunity to take stock in where we have come, since the early 2000s when the issue of agriculture security was first visited, and discuss where we need to go from here.

The Agriculture Committee last held a hearing on this subject over a decade ago, but since that time the significance of this issue has only grown.

Today, we will commit to the record updated information regarding agriculture security, begin to examine any needed changes in this arena, and continue work on these evolving challenges. There are several key questions for us to explore. What does risk management look like in this sector? Where are resources most appropriately directed? How should a multi-jurisdictional system best function? 

Before us today is an esteemed panel of experts and public servants who have dedicated much of their careers to protecting agriculture and the country from biological threats.

In October, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense released a bipartisan report, Defense of Animal Agriculture which assesses many of the issues we will hear about today. I ask unanimous consent to enter that report into the record—without objection.

I’m very much looking forward to our witnesses’ testimony and the discussion today.

I now recognize my colleague Senator Stabenow for any opening remarks she may have.

-30-

Press Contact

Meghan Cline
202-224-2035