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Posted on: September 8, 2020

Businesses, organizations prepare for and prevent threats to U.S. food supply

7933-72dpi“We’re the group that takes ag and biosecurity research out of the laboratory and makes it actionable. We apply it to the real world.”

National Agricultural Biosecurity Center Director Marty Vanier, DVM, and her team collaborate with entities all over the country that are working to protect our food supply. Headquartered at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, NABC looks at threats to the agricultural enterprise, attempts to anticipate and plan for the response, and trains others to carry out those responses.

The National Agricultural Biosecurity Center was established after watershed U.S. Senate testimony in 1999 from then-Kansas State University President Jon Wefald as he sounded the alarm — two years before the 9/11 attacks — about bioterrorism threats to our nation’s food supply.

Today, NABC continues to carry out a broad range of programs and projects to address diverse threats to the U.S. and world agricultural economies.

“For instance, when COVID first broke and we were seeing a lot of supply chain and animal harvesting challenges, we were the source for the DHS group that was responsible for tracking this situation. We provided most of their background information,” Vanier said.

Working with government agencies, private business and industry organizations, NABC reaches across disciplines to bring together experts and research from many fields — economics, pathology, veterinary medicine, supply chain — to assess threats, develop response plans, assess existing plans and run emergency response exercises.

The National Agricultural Biosecurity Center also examines conditions around the world — climate factors, disease outbreaks, harvest patterns — and analyzes how those and other factors impact food production, giving private businesses and industry organizations tools they can use for business continuity.

For instance, once a threat has been identified in animal ag production, or some disruption has occurred, the focus will be on getting things moving again safely and quickly. Entities that have biosecurity plans in place will be ahead of the game — and NABC can help to both create and assess those plans.

“After a stand-down occurs, and we take the few days we need to identify where an infection is, then you want to start to open things up again. But you have to be smart about it,” Vanier said. “If we’ve got entities — ranches, farms, feedlots — that have a biosecurity plan in place that’s been assessed and approved, those are the entities that will get to move forward and get back to business first, because they’re doing the right things.”

NABC can partner with ag industry organizations that want to offer the development of biosecurity as a value-added member benefit. In addition, NABC can work directly with private businesses to plan for disruptions and create optimal responses.

“We can provide an early warning and a forecast, and then we can look at what we’re going to do about the situation. We can help answer the ‘now what?’ question,” Vanier said. “How does a producer respond for continuity of business? If they lose a critical supply they’ve relied on, what can they put in its place? How do they change processes to adapt?”

With proximity to the Biosecurity Research Institute, the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and the nearly completed National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF), the NABC team can quickly and efficiently loop in international experts as situations warrant.

To consult with the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center to enhance the safety of your business’s operations, reach out to Vanier at 785.532.6193 or nabc@bri.k-state.edu