The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has joined forces with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to counter possible instances of agroterrorism.
"Ensuring the safety of our nation's food supply is a top priority for President Bush and USDA," said agriculture secretary Mike Johanns.
"This partnership demonstrates our commitment as government and the private sector work together to protect our agricultural commodities from terrorism. We look forward to working with our partners."
The announcement of the partnership comes after a report into vulnerability of the US milk supply chain criticised the Food and Drug Administration for not imposing stricter regulations on the food and drink industry generally.
Around 10g of botulinum toxin released into central milk storage tanks would be enough to poison almost half a million people, according a new report by Yifan Liu and Lawrence Wein of Stanford University.
The report, which was quashed by US authorities, was released unchanged last month.
The Strategic Partnership Program Agroterrorism (SPPA) Initiative, as it is called, supports President Bush's requirements directing the government to work closely with states and industry to secure the nation's food supply. Announced last week at the Food and Agriculture Sector Coordinating Council meeting, four pilot visits will be conducted in September and October.
The purpose of these visits is to assess and identify vulnerabilities in the agriculture and food sectors.
"As one of the lead federal agencies charged with protecting our nation's food supply, the FDA fully supports this initiative encouraging a closer working relationship with our partners in federal and state government, as well as the private sector to make the nation's food even safer," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford.
"This partnership brings together all of the organizations that have the best knowledge and abilities in safeguarding the food we eat starting from the farm all the way to our kitchen tables."
Over the next year, teams of federal and state officials will travel to all 50 states to meet with all sectors of the food chain. Together, the federal, state and private industry partners will discuss security issues from farm-to-table and consider ways to better protect our food supply.
"We are pleased to participate in this important initiative to enhance the overall security of our nation's food and agricultural infrastructure," said Robert Stephan, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, US Department of Homeland Security.
"The health of our citizens and our economy depend on our ability to conduct assessments, validate field information and provide guidance that can be shared with our federal, state and local, tribal as well as private sector partners."
These visits will help the federal partners better consider how states and industry can protect the food supply, gain more information about the food industry's protection needs and assist government and private industry in refining its efforts including research and development goals.
This effort is the second major joint initiative for the federal partners. In May 2005, FBI, with the support of DHS, USDA and FDA hosted the first ever International Symposium for Agrosecurity in Kansas City, Mo.