Biden signs food and ag security memorandum
President Biden recently signed a national security memorandum to strengthen the security and resilience of United States food and agriculture.
National Security Memorandum 16 supercedes Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9 (Defense of United States Agriculture and Food), issued in 2004, and provides presidential guidance to identify and assess the threats of greatest consequence; strengthen partnerships to enhance the resilience of the workforce; and coordinating our government to act more efficiently and effectively, and enhance preparedness and response.
On a call to reporters, a senior administration official said that the new memorandum would cover threats that did not exist in 2004: cybersecurity, avian influenza, climate change and the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The new memorandum acknowledges that the private sector owns and operates the majority of the food and agriculture sector and, in conjunction with federal, state, local, tribal and territorial (SLTT) officials, is generally the first line of response when an incident happens.
The White House said, “This NSM sets out to strengthen the resilience of the food and agriculture workforce, who are essential critical infrastructure workers, by:
▪ Refining and promoting the identification of, and guidance for, essential critical infrastructure workers in the food and agriculture sector to continue to work safely while supporting ongoing operations during high-consequence or catastrophic incidents; and
▪ Supporting the development, provision, and promotion of relevant education at all levels to train the existing workforce and build a pipeline of future essential workers.”
A White House fact sheet said, “This NSM positions the federal government to develop, maintain, assess, enhance, and encourage the adoption of systems and activities that will harden the nation’s ability to prepare and respond to an agricultural incident by:
▪ Training federal, SLTT, and private sector partners together on how to prepare for and respond to threats to the food and agriculture sector;
▪ Integrating federal, SLTT, private, and academic laboratories to increase testing and diagnostic surge capacity and standardizing diagnostic and reporting protocols to facilitate timely information sharing;
▪ Enhancing our National Veterinary Stockpile, which is the animal-health equivalent of the Secure National Stockpile; and
▪ Strengthening our plant disease response capability with the National Plant Disease Recovery System.”
A senior administration official declined to address a question about whether the president’s budget would include more money to achieve the goals set out in the memorandum.
The fact sheet said the memorandum builds on actions the agriculture department has taken in response to an executive order on supply chains Biden put forward in February 2021.
The memorandum declares: “The food and agriculture sector is extensive, interconnected, diverse, and complex. Designated as critical infrastructure and primarily owned and operated by private sector and non‑Federal entities, food and agriculture systems and supply chains are vulnerable to disruption and damage from domestic and global threats.”
The memo also says: “It is the policy of the United States to ensure that our nation’s food and agriculture sector is secure and resilient in response to the possibility of high-consequence and catastrophic incidents.”
The memorandum directs the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security, in coordination with the secretary of defense and the heads of other relevant agencies, to provide to the secretary of agriculture, the secretary of commerce, the secretary of health and human services, and the heads of other relevant agencies a threat assessment on potential actors and threats, delivery systems, and methods that could be directed against or affect the food and agriculture sector and to take actions to deal with the threats.