President Barack Obama last week issued a proclamation declaring that December is National Critical Infrastructure Month. Critical infrastructure are the assets, systems and networks that are essential to the nation's security, public health and safety, economic vitality and way of life, and any effort to destroy or alter them would have a debilitating effect on the country. Food and agriculture is one of 18 sectors identified as a critical infrastructure.
"This month, we affirm the fundamental importance of our critical infrastructure and recommit to preparing for, responding to and recovering from hazardous events and emergencies efficiently and effectively," the proclamation said. "I call upon the people of the United States to recognize the importance of protecting our nation's critical resources and to observe this month with appropriate events and training to enhance our national security and resilience."
IDFA has played a leading role in the Food and Agricultural Sector Coordinating Council (FASCC), the presidentially mandated partnership between government and the private sector food and agriculture entities, since its formation by the Department of Homeland Security nine years ago. Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs, is the council's co-chair.
The council exists to encourage communication and planning between private businesses, the sector-specific agencies – Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture – 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.
Detlefsen believes participation by IDFA and these other organizations has definitely been worth the time invested.
"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 listed 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 work proactively with government officials to ensure that the industry is pursuing the correct objectives.
"The bottom line is that should something happen, we will be able to act more quickly and efficiently," Detlefsen said. "That critical moment has not yet materialized and hopefully it never will."
For more information, contact Detlefsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.