The Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have created an online tool to help farmers and producers assess and mitigate vulnerabilities in their production processes.

The risk-assessment tool, called Agriculture CARVER + Shock, is designed to help the food industry --at the farm level – implement food-production-security methods. The software is free and available here.

CARVER was originally developed by the U.S. military to identify areas that might be vulnerable to attack. The FDA and USDA adapted the model to the food and agriculture sector. The software currently evaluates potential vulnerabilities in the supply chains of different foods and food processes. The FDA and APHIS worked with Sandia National Laboratories to develop the special agriculture module, designed primarily for harvest and pre-harvest food production operations.

“This assessment tool helps the producer understand how an attacker might think,” said Stephen F. Sundlof, veterinarian and director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “Producers can easily identify weak spots in their operation and receive practical advice on countermeasures they can put in place.”

Cindy Smith, APHIS administrator, agrees. “Being prepared is a tremendous asset. Farmers can now see first-hand what they can do to protect themselves and U.S. agriculture.”

Farms of all sizes can benefit. Producers are asked a series of questions about each component of their production process. Based on the responses, Ag Carver provides scores for those components and specific risk mitigation measures are recommended. These might include upgrades or enhancements to physical security, process operations, or a change in personnel practices. Information entered by the program user is not recorded by either FDA or APHIS.

The risk assessment tool derives its name from seven designated attributes for evaluation:

  • Criticality: What impact would an intentional attack have on public health or to the economy?
  • Accessibility:  How easily can a terrorist get to this target?
  • Recuperability: How well could a system recover from an attack?
  • Vulnerability: How easily could an attack be accomplished?
  • Effect: What would be the direct loss from an attack, as measured by loss in production?
  • Recognizability: How easily could a terrorist identify a target?
  • Shock: What would be the psychological impact of an attack?

Source: Food and Drug Administration