Homeland Security Dept. Establishes Agro-security Centers

Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota will lead collaborative efforts to focus on foreign animal diseases and food security. Compiled by staff

Published on: Apr 28, 2004

Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota have been chosen to lead two new Homeland Security Centers of Excellence (HS-Centers) on agro-security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security anticipates providing Texas A&M University, University of Minnesota and their partners with a total of $33 million over the course of the next three years to address security in two key agricultural sectors -- foreign animal diseases and food security. Homeland Security and these universities will soon begin grant negotiations to formalize their partnerships.

"I am delighted that Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota and their teams are partnering with Homeland Security in our efforts to address agro-security challenges," says Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. "I am confident that the cooperative work of these two Centers of Excellence will help further the Bush Administration's efforts to ensure the security of the nation's food supply and protect against foreign animal diseases."

"Protecting our food and agriculture systems is a top priority for President Bush," says Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman. "Research conducted at these institutions will greatly enhance our ability to protect against animal and plant pests and diseases and food pathogens."

The Department of Homeland Security anticipates providing Texas A&M University and its partners with $18 million over the course of the next three years for the study of high consequence foreign animal and zoonotic diseases. Texas A&M University has assembled a team of experts from across the country, which includes partnerships with the University of Texas Medical Branch, University of California at Davis, University of Southern California and University of Maryland.

Texas A&M University's HS-Center, which will be known as the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, will work closely with partners in academia, industry and government to address potential threats to animal agriculture including foot-and-mouth disease, Rift Valley fever and Avian influenza. Their research on foot-and-mouth disease will be carried out in close collaboration with Homeland Security's Plum Island Animal Disease Center. The HS-Center's efforts will be headed by Dr. Neville P. Clarke, Director, Agriculture Bio-terrorism Institute, Texas A&M University.

The University of Minnesota's HS-Center, known as the University Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense, will address agro-security issues related to post-harvest food protection. The University of Minnesota's team includes partnerships with major food companies as well as other universities including Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, North Dakota State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Harvard University, University of Tennessee, Cornell University, Purdue University and North Carolina State University.

Homeland Security anticipates providing the University of Minnesota and its partners with $15 million over the course of the next three years to establish best practices and attract new researchers to manage and respond to food contamination events, both intentional and naturally occurring. Dr. Francis F. Busta of the University of Minnesota's Department of Food Science and Nutrition will head the HS-Center's efforts.

The HS-Centers program, which is operated by the Department's Science and Technology Directorate, is establishing an integrated network of university-based centers that will conduct multi-disciplinary research and develop innovative educational programs for critical Homeland Security missions. Through this program, Homeland Security and partner universities bring together the nation's best experts and focus its most talented researchers on a variety of threats that include agricultural, chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, explosive and cyber terrorism as well as the behavioral aspects of terrorism.