In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ann M. Veneman, National Farmers Union (NFU) President Leland Swenson proposed the formation of a multi-agency biosecurity task force to address potential threats to the nation’s food production system.

Swenson’s letter urged collaboration among agencies that impact the nation’s food system, such as the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Transportation, border patrol agencies and others, through a biosecurity task force.

Swenson recommended that, while final biosecurity authority for various segments of the food production system should rest in the respective oversight agencies, a special task force comprised of members from each of these agencies should be formed.

Swenson suggested the task force meet with farmers, ranchers, processors, researchers and other food industry representatives on a regular basis to review proposed plans and to seek input.

"NFU believes the production agriculture and food processing industries should view greater security needs as ‘security responsibilities,’ not solely as more rules and regulations," he said.

Finally, NFU proposed that a representative from the proposed biosecurity task force be assigned to the Office of Homeland Security to provide a unified voice representative of the entire food system during security discussions.

"By retaining the expertise of the oversight agencies, through a biosecurity task force and within the Office of Homeland Security, the U.S. will be better equipped to protect its food supply," Swenson said.

"NFU commends the efforts Secretary Veneman has undertaken to ensure the safety of our nation’s food system in these times of heightened security risks," Swenson said. "We applaud her immediate response to possible threats by establishing emergency response task forces to evaluate biosecurity priorities.

NFU will continue to work with the Secretary to address biosecurity needs for our nation's farmers, ranchers and consumers."