National security for critical infrastructure

 

Creating the tools and training the workforce that will protect agriculture, the economy and the food supply.

 

Infographic-US-ag-industryIn July 2002, the National Strategy for Homeland Security named food and agriculture to the nation’s critical infrastructure list.1 Critical infrastructure is defined as “those systems and assets, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the U.S. that the incapacity or destruction of such systems and assets would have a debilitating impact on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination of those matters.” 2

The U.S. agricultural industry provides the nation with the “most reliable, secure, and safe supply of food at reasonable costs that the world has ever known.” And the industry’s impact goes beyond food supply – the agricultural industry contributes approximately $1.25 trillion toward the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) and employs approximately one in every six workers.3

An intentional or accidental introduction of a high-consequence animal disease would have devastating effects on the nation’s economy, agriculture and public health. Some estimates of economic losses from a hypothetical outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the U.S. range from $2.3 billion to $69.0 billion.4-6  This number increases exponentially in relationship to the time it takes to detect the disease outbreak.4  In the event of an FMD outbreak, foreign countries would impose import bans, causing pork and beef prices would fall dramatically while domestic supply increases.6

In addition to supporting the nation’s economy, the U.S. depends on its agriculture’s industries to provide a ready and safe supply of milk, eggs, beef, chicken, pork and other animal-origin food products. Any disruption to normal business operations has the potential to severely cripple our nation’s food supply and result in food shortages. The emerging Schmallenberg virus resulted in market export closures across Europe, and the impacts of 2011 outbreaks in North Korea, South Korea and Japan resulted in food shortages.7,8 These shortages, particularly in pork and beef, caused a surge in prices and heavy inflation – the price of pork in South Korea rose 53 percent in one month in the middle of the 2010 outbreak.

It is easy to envision a similar situation occurring in the U.S., especially given the potentially widespread geographic and economic impact. In order to minimize the destructive effects of FMD and other foreign animals diseases, a fast and accurate diagnosis is essential to moving forward with response and recovery efforts. IIAD researchers are working not only to create vaccine and diagnostic tools  to prevent these outbreaks, but also to create tools for animal health officials and veterinarians that allow for real-time monitoring of animal health across the country. The Institute is also working on tools to maintain business continuity and perform risk management during an animal disease outbreak.

Endnotes

  1. Office of Homeland Security. National Strategy for Homeland Security. July 2002.
  2. Public Law 107-56 — Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA Patriot Act) Act of 2001. October 2001.
  3. USDA. Safeguarding American Agriculture. 2008.
  4. Paarlberg PL, Lee JG, Seitzinger AH. Potential revenue impact of an outbreak of foot-andmouth disease in the United States. JAV MA, 2002. 220(7): 988-92.
  5. Carpenter TE, et al. Epidemic and economic impacts of delayed detection of FMD: A case study of a simulated outbreak in California. J Vet Diagn Invest, 2011. 23:26-33.
  6. Paarlberg PL, et al. Economic Impacts of Foreign Animal Disease. Economic Research Report Number 57. USDA, 2008.
  7. Seoul English News. S. Korea’s FMD outbreak turns into economic, social catastrophe. January 28, 2011.
  8. BBC News. North Korea ‘hit by foot-and-mouth outbreak.’ January 18, 2011.