IDFA has played a critical role in the Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council (FASCC), a presidentially mandated partnership between government and the private sector, since its formation by the Department of Homeland Security eight years ago. IDFA Vice President Clay Detlefsen is the council's co-chair, and this week he discussed the council's challenges and successes at the 2010 Symposium on Food and Agriculture Security in Madison, Wis.
The symposium was sponsored by the Multi-State Partnership for Security in Agriculture, an association of 14 agricultural states located in the Midwest. The symposium highlighted ways that federal, state and local governments are working together with the private sector to reduce threats, minimize potential impact and plan for business continuity.
Addressing an audience of 250 federal and state government officials as well as industry participants, Detlefsen began by explaining the mission of the council. Since its inception in 2002, the council exists to encourage communication and planning between the private sector and DHS, along with other government entities and organizations, to secure and protect the nation's food supply.
In addition to IDFA, other members of the council include, but are not limited to, the American Frozen Food Institute, Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Board and National Restaurant Association.
Worth the Effort
Challenges to reaching the council's goal, Detlefsen said, include the diversity of the participants, too many activities and too little time. The successes, however, have been worth the effort.
"Critical relationships within the sector and with government personnel have materialized, mutual understandings and trust have been developed, and tabletop exercises, or drills, have resulted in improvements to our nation's food defense plans," Detlefsen said.
He outlined several benefits to participating in the council, including having a voice in establishing priorities, gaining insight into governmental operational issues and, perhaps most important, having an opportunity to thwart unnecessary regulations.
"The bottom line is that should something happen, we will be able to act more quickly and efficiently," Detlefsen said, adding, "That critical moment has not yet materialized and hopefully it never will."
A complete agenda and list of speakers is available here.