President Biden on Thursday signed National Security Memorandum-16, a White House policy document detailing guidance to federal departments to strengthen what it views as resilience in the food and agriculture industries.

“Food and agriculture systems and supply chains are designated as critical infrastructure, primarily owned and operated by private sector and non-Federal entities, and can be vulnerable to disruption and damage from domestic and global threats,” a White House press release stated.

In addition to guidance, the memorandum requires various cabinet officials to issue reports to the White House on threats to the security of U.S. agriculture, including cyber, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats. The memorandum also requires risk reviews and action plans from various federal agencies.

The White House press release also indicated the memorandum’s three categories of guidance to federal agencies:

  • Identify and assess the threats of greatest consequence;
  • Strengthen partnerships to enhance the resilience of the workforce, and coordinating our government to act more efficiently and effectively; and
  • Enhance preparedness and response

Within each of those categories, the White House outlines specific priorities it believes the federal government ought to maintain to ensure resilience in agriculture.

The guidance, directed to the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, Interior, Justice, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Director of National Intelligence, and other White House advisors, includes the following priorities:

Identify and Assess the Threats of Greatest Consequence:

  • Redefining the way that chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) threats are defined, in relation to the food and agriculture sector specifically;
  • Focusing on cyber threats and the consequences of the climate crisis;
  • Enhancing threat and risk assessments, disseminating needed information with relevant Federal, State, local, Tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments and private sector partners; and
  • Mandating a continuous process to assess and mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities of the food and agriculture sector.

Strengthen Partnerships to Enhance the Resilience of the Workforce:

  • Refining and promoting the identification of, and guidance for, essential critical infrastructure workers in the food and agriculture sector to continue to work safely while supporting ongoing operations during high-consequence or catastrophic incidents; and
  • Supporting the development, provision, and promotion of relevant education at all levels to train the existing workforce and build a pipeline of future essential workers.

Enhance Preparedness and Response: 

  • Training Federal, SLTT, and private sector partners together on how to prepare for and respond to threats to the food and agriculture sector;
  • Integrating Federal, SLTT, private, and academic laboratories to increase testing and diagnostic surge capacity and standardizing diagnostic and reporting protocols to facilitate timely information sharing;
  • Enhancing our National Veterinary Stockpile, which is the animal-health equivalent of the Secure National Stockpile; and
  • Strengthening our plant disease response capability with the National Plant Disease Recovery System

The memorandum can be found here.