H.R. 5346, Securing our Agriculture and Food Act

H.R. 5346

Securing our Agriculture and Food Act

Date
September 26, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On­­­­ Monday, September 26, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 5346, the Securing our Agriculture and Food Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 5346 was introduced on May 26, 2016, by Rep. David Young (R-IA) and was referred to the Committee on Homeland Security, in addition to the Committees on Energy and Commerce and Agriculture. The Committee on Homeland Security ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on September 13, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 5346 amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize a program to coordinate the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts related to food, agriculture, and veterinary defense from acts of terrorism and other high-consequence events that post a risk to homeland security.

Background

Agriculture is critical to public health and the nation’s economy. According to the Government Accountability Office, the food and agriculture sector annually produces $300 billion in food and other products and is responsible for an estimated one out of every 12 U.S. jobs.  Agriculture directly or indirectly supports 16 million jobs.[1]

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “agriculture exports surpassed $152 billion FY 2014, and have climbed more than 58% in value since 2009, totaling $771.7 billion over the past five years.”[2] An intentional attack on, or natural disruption of, our agriculture or food production systems “can present a serious threat to the national economy and human health and can halt or slow trade.”[3]

The food and agriculture sector is one of 16 critical infrastructure sectors. According to the Department of Homeland Security, “the Food and Agriculture Sector is almost entirely under the private ownerships and is composed of an estimated 2.2 million farms, 900,000 restaurants, and more than 400,000 registered good manufacturing, processing, and storage facilities. This sector accounts for roughly one-fifth of the nation’s economic activity.”[4]

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson highlighted the vulnerability of the agricultural sector to a terrorist attack in his farewell address in December 2004. He said, “for the life of me, I cannot understand why the terrorists have not [targeted] our food supply because it is so easy to do.”[5]

DHS has responsibility for food, agriculture, and veterinary defense pursuant to the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 – Defense of United States Food and Agriculture, which is authorized under this bill. The Secretary of Homeland Security has delegated HSPD-9 implementation to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Health Affairs.[6]

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Agro-terrorism and high-risk events pose serious threats to our food, agriculture, and livestock industries in the United States, and it is imperative we take precautions and have preparedness policies in place.”[7]

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[1] See House Agriculture Committee’s Full Committee Hearing with Testimony from Under Secretary Edward Avalos, September 16, 2015.
[2] Id.
[3] See Government Accountability Office Testimony on September 13, 2011.
[4] See DHS Food and Agriculture Sector
[5] See http://modernfarmer.com/2013/12/food-insecurity-farms-next-terrorist-target/
[6] See Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 9
[7] See Rep. Young’s Press Release, September 13, 2016

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 5346 would cost less than $500,000 a year, subject to the availability of appropriated funds. In 2016, the Department allocated $450,000 for this activity.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.