Fighting terrorism on the food front

Related tags Influenza Usda

Safeguarding America's food supply against possible terrorist
threats will eat into a considerable chunk of the USDA's budget
next year. The country is also planning to stockpile animal
vaccines, following concerns that diseases such as BSE and Avian
Influenza could be used in acts of bioterrorism.

Details of the 2005 budget for US department of agriculture (USDA) programmes, which include increased funding to secure the safety of the country's food supply were revealed yesterday. The FY 2005 budget calls for $82 billion in spending, an increase of $4 billion, or about 5 per cent above levels for FY 2004.

Safeguarding America's food supply is a central feature of the programme. The budget provides funding for an interagency initiative to improve the government's capability to rapidly identify and characterise a bioterriorist attack, and improve surveillance capabilities in human health, food, agriculture and environmental monitoring.

The administration has directed the USDA to develop a national plant disease recovery system, capable of responding quickly to a major crop disease with pest control measures and resistant seed varieties. To this end, the USDA budget for FY 2005 includes $381 million for a Food and Agriculture Defence Initiative to enhance monitoring and surveillance of pests and diseases in plants and animals, conduct research on emerging animal diseases and establish a system to track select disease agents of plants.

In addition, President Bush has earmarked $7 million for the development of a national stockpile of animal vaccines to protect the livestock and poultry industries in case of a terrorist attack. A current stockpile run by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service was funded this year with less than $1 million. P> Reuters reports that Jeremy Stump, USDA homeland security director, said the government recognised that the US agriculture sector was a potential target for a deliberate attack.

Under the directive, the USDA will store emergency supplies of vaccines to prevent the spread of highly contagious viruses like foot-and-mouth, highly pathogenic avian influenza and exotic Newcastle. The directive comes as the USDA continues its investigation into the first US case of mad cow disease, and international health officials try to contain a deadly outbreak of bird flu in Asia.

"The agriculture budget provides funds to protect America's food supply and agriculture systems, improve nutrition and health, conserve and enhance our natural resources and enhance economic opportunities for agricultural producers,"​ said agriculture secretary Ann Veneman.

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