Agriculture and Food Sector

The Agriculture and Food Sector is comprised of critical infrastructure and key resources that grow crops, raise animals, and harvest timber. The sector also consists of restaurants, food retail establishments, and food facilities such as warehouses, manufacturers, and processors.

A disruption to the sector would pose a threat to public health and safety, as well as the national economy.

In New Jersey, there are approximately 10,300 farms. The sector is almost entirely under private ownership. The State operates five dairy farms, which provide subsidized food and milk mostly to the inmate population and government departments. Some counties own farmland easements and lease to private farms.

Threat

Natural Hazards
In December 2014, H5N2—the largest highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak in US history—crippled the US poultry industry, amounting to $1.2 billion in losses. By early 2015, four of the 21 states that experienced outbreaks declared states of emergency. In total, the outbreak affected over 49 million birds. The virus has not spread to the East Coast, although in December 2015 a swine variant of the strain, H3N2, infected one individual in New Jersey.

Cyber: Moderate
The Agriculture and Food Sector is vulnerable to cyber operations such as data breaches, point-of-sale malware, website defacements, and distributed denial-of-service attacks. The sector is increasingly vulnerable to cyber attacks as farmers and agricultural businesses rely more on “smart agriculture” and “smart farm” practices. The sector is likely to see cyber intrusions from financially motivated cybercriminals, hacktivists, and nation-states.

Terrorism: Low
Terrorists groups have not targeted the Agriculture and Food Sector in the United States, although in 2010 al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula expressed the intent to poison the food supply in US hotels and restaurants. Internationally, restaurants remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks because of limited security. In November 2015, individuals affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria attacked multiple locations in Paris, including five restaurants.

Preparedness

In April 2016, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing to address the state of US biodefense preparedness. 

In January 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)  Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service released the HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan. This strategy outlines steps to prevent and reduce future outbreaks, enhance preparedness, and improve and streamline response capabilities.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture offers resources to protect and enhance the viability of the State’s agriculture. 

The Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Health and Human Services maintain an online Food Defense Awareness training. The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service also provides a guide on protecting the US food supply.

Intelligence Gaps

  • Why have international or domestic terrorist groups not targeted the Agriculture and Food Sector in the United States?
  • How are individuals plotting to intentionally spread infectious diseases, either for terrorist or criminal motives? 

For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Preparedness Bureau at preparedness@njohsp.gov.