Senate recognizes importance of biosecurity, agro-defense

By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

The American Veterinary Medical Association applauds the U.S. Senate’s recent passage of S. Res. 373, a resolution recognizing the importance of biosecurity and agro-defense to America’s national and economic security.

AVMA has long urged Congress to fully fund the construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kan. This bio-containment facility, which broke ground last May, will study foreign animal, emerging and zoonotic diseases that could threaten U.S. animal agriculture and public health.

In fiscal year 2014, Congress approved $404 million for the facility. President Obama in his fiscal 2015 budget request (see related article) allotted $300 million to the facility, while the AVMA is seeking $310 million.

“NBAF will protect our national economy by researching foreign animal disease threats, which have very real impacts,” Rep. Moran said in a press release. “It is critical that construction begins immediately to safeguard against these threats and the devastation they would cause. The cost of an outbreak far outweighs the cost of construction, not only in the loss of human life, but also its damage to the animal and agricultural industry. As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to make certain NBAF remains a top priority for the Department of Homeland Security, the Administration and among Congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle.”

Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) championed the bill.

Full text of the resolution is as follows:

Recognizing the importance of biosecurity and agrodefense in the United States;

Whereas following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States took notice of the global threat of terrorism;

Whereas the new reality after the attacks of September 11, 2011, led to an increase of resources focused on combatting attack from the enemies of the United States;

Whereas Congress established the Department of Homeland Security in 2002 with the intent of meeting the challenges plaguing the United States;

Whereas the attacks made visible the vulnerability of our food supply and agriculture economy;

Whereas the President of the United States issued a Homeland Security Directive entitled the “Defense of United States Agriculture and Food” on January 30, 2004;

Whereas the Department of Homeland Security, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, recognized the challenges of agroterrorism early on;

Whereas the Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation and Terrorism assessed in the 2008 report entitled “World At Risk,” “the U.S. government has invested most of its nonproliferation efforts and diplomatic capital in preventing nuclear terrorism. The Commission believes that it should make the more likely threat – bioterrorism – a higher priority. Only by elevating the priority of the biological weapons threat will it be possible to bring about substantial improvements in global biosecurity”;

Whereas the threat of attack from the enemies of the United States continues and there is much remaining work; and

Whereas the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility inaugurated construction on May 28, 2013; 

Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that

While the United States continues to combat terrorism in all forms around the world, the safety, security, and health of our livestock and agriculture commodities must not be forgotten;

Research and investment in biosecurity and biosafety should be supported by Congress;

Providing the resources, both intellectually and materially, for the advancement of vaccines and hopeful eradication of deadly pathogens and emerging zoonotic disease in an integral part of providing homeland defense;

Without the tools necessary to protect the people, agriculture economy, and food supply of the United States, the United States remains vulnerable to attack and chaos;

The world depends on the food and fiber that the United States produces;

The world depends on the leadership of the United States in science and technology;

The United States must remain the leader in the fight against bioterrorism; and

Biosecurity and agrodefense are achievable goals for the United States in the global war on terrorism.

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