Defense of Animal Agriculture

Bipartisan Report of the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense

(Image credit: Dan Reynolds Photography)
(Image credit: Dan Reynolds Photography)


The increasing rate of emerging and reemerging zoonotic disease, along with threats and attempts by those with nefarious intent to attack food and agriculture, point to the need to exert more effort to eliminate vulnerabilities and reduce consequences associated with America’s agricultural sector. The Food and Agriculture (F&A) critical infrastructure sector produces, processes, and delivers the systems and commodities that feed billions of people and animals throughout the United States and globally. In 2015, the agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $992 billion (5.5%) to U.S. gross domestic product (GDP), making it one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy. Given its critical importance to food safety and availability in the United States and around the world, protecting this sector is a matter of national security. Federal agencies; state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments; academic institutions; and industry partners all contribute to and are responsible for this vast enterprise. Our lives, culture, economy, and livelihood depend on their efforts.

In its 2015 A National Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership and Major Reform Needed to Optimize Efforts, the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense determined that national biodefense lacked centralized leadership, interagency coordination and accountability, collaboration with non-federal stakeholders, and incentives for innovation sufficient to achieve needed capabilities and maximize mission effectiveness. With its series of special focus reports, the Panel undertakes in depth examinations of particular biodefense topics of concern, considers how the recommendations it made in the Blueprint for Biodefense apply to these topics, and adds detail and new action items in keeping with its existing recommendations. This special focus report is the first in the series, and reflects the Panel’s evaluation of threats to animal agriculture, a critical infrastructure component central to the health and well-being of the population and the security of a major element of the national economy.

The Panel views protection of agriculture – the cultivation and breeding of animals and plants for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain human life – as a critical part of the overall biodefense mission space. While nearly all the Panel’s Blueprint for Biodefense recommendations apply to agrodefense, some are especially important for the mission and deserve particular attention at this time. The goal of this report is to elucidate a few key, persistent challenges and to propose solutions. This report does not address every challenge in agrodefense. It emphasizes that intersection of issues which reflect the underlying principles of the Blueprint for Biodefense, and which have been inadequately evaluated or discussed in other fora. This report does not directly assess threats to food (including food safety issues) or to plant agriculture, two areas of great import that rightfully deserve their own substantive analyses. Neither does it address food security (access to food), another important topic. These topics were beyond the scope defined for this special focus report. Additional areas for oversight consideration are included at the end as proposed congressional hearings.

The findings and recommendations herein are structured along the same thematic lines as the Blueprint for Biodefense: Leadership, Coordination, Collaboration, and Innovation. Recommended actions are listed in the Summary of Proposals for the Executive Branch and the Summary of Proposals for Congress, and are designed to align directly to recommendations in the Blueprint for Biodefense.