The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that the University of Minnesota and Texas A&M University will lead two new Homeland Security Centers of Excellence that will address U.S. agriculture and food security. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced grants totalling $33 over the next three years. Both Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota will partner with other unversities and researchers to address pre-harvest and post-harvest food security issues. Specific attention will be given to foreign animal diseases and food security.

“I am delighted that Texas A&M University and the University of Minnesota and their teams are partnering with Homeland Security in our efforts to address agrosecurity challenges,” says Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge. “I am confident that the cooperative work of these two Centers of Excellence will help further the Bush Administration's efforts to ensure the security of the nation's food supply and protect against foreign animal diseases.”

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman adds: “Protecting our food and agriculture systems is a top priority. Research conducted at these institutions will greatly enhance our ability to protect against animal and plant pests and diseases and food pathogens.”

Texas A&M University and its partners– the University of Texas Medical Branch, University of California at Davis, University of Southern California and University of Maryland– are expected to received $18 million over three years.

Texas A&M University's Center, to be known as the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense, will work with academia, industry and government to address potential threats to animal agriculture including foot-and-mouth disease, Rift Valley fever and avian influenza. Foot-and-mouth disease research will be conducted in close collaboration with the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. Neville Clarke, director of the agriculture bioterrorism institute at Texas A&M University, will head the center.

The University of Minnesota's Center, known as the University Center for Post-Harvest Food Protection and Defense, will address agriculture-security issues related to post-harvest food protection. The team will include partnerships with major food companies as well as Michigan State University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, North Dakota State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Rutgers University, Harvard University, University of Tennessee, Cornell University, Purdue University and North Carolina State University. This three-year study will receive $15 million to establish best practices and attract new researchers to manage and respond to food intential and naturally occuring contamination events.

The Center of Excellence program, which is operated by the Department's Science and Technology Directorate, is establishing an integrated network of university-based centers that will conduct multi-disciplinary research and develop educational programs for critical Homeland Security missions. This program focuses on a variety of threats, including agricultural, chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological, explosive and cyber terrorism, as well as the behavioral aspects of terrorism.

U.S. Homeland Security Department, University of Minnesota, Texas A&M University