GAO: American agriculture still vulnerable to terrorist attack
A federal watchdog agency concluded in a report that American agriculture is better protected today against terrorist attack, but significant challenges remain for regulatory agencies in charge of this industry sector.
The Government Accountability Office praised the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Homeland Security Department for their coordinating development of plans and protocols to better manage a “national response” to “agroterrorism.” The agencies have established a network laboratories to identify animal and plant diseases, and started developing a national vaccine stockpile.
However, the GAO report said the nation’s ability to efficiently respond to an attack against livestock is still limited. USDA would not be able to issue animal vaccines within 24 hours of an outbreak, mostly because the only vaccines stored in the United States are for strains of foot and mouth disease, and they must be sent to the United Kingdom to be activated for use, the GAO report said.
Since the transfer of inspectors from USDA to DHS in 2003, the GAO report found that fewer inspections of agricultural products have taken place at ports of entry.
The GAO recommends USDA examine the costs and benefits of developing stockpiles of ready-to-use vaccines. The report also urged USDA and DHS to determine the reasons for declining agricultural inspections.
On March 4, Customs and Border Protection reported that its agriculture specialists conducted nearly 5 million agricultural cargo inspections last fiscal year, up more than 16 percent over the year before.