Three federal agencies signed a cooperative agreement on Sept. 23 with the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to further develop integrated federal-state response plans for food and agricultural emergencies. The agreement, forged by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), answers a directive set by President Bush to improve federal, state and local cooperation through enhanced disaster response and recovery procedures."This agreement greatly strengthens the essential food safety network of federal, state and municipal governments," said Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Lester Crawford. "Establishment of clear and consistent practices for combating threats to the food supply is a necessary prerequisite to the public health imperative of providing secure, safe and nutritious food for all Americans." The cooperative agreement will occur in three phases, with the first phase starting immediately and phase three concluding by June 2005. During the first phase, a workgroup comprised of federal, state and local officials will gather information about existing state emergency response systems and how food/agricultural safety and security emergencies will be handled within the various states. In phase two, the workgroup will develop an interagency response plan, conduct tabletop exercises and pilots to test functionality of the emergency response plan and refine it based on lessons-learned and other input.Additional information about food security is available on the FSIS Web page at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/Food_Security_&_Emergency_Preparedness/index.asp and FDA’s Web page at http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fsterr.html.