Agro-terrorism and the Grain Handling Systems in Canada and the United States

The grain handling sector in Canada and the United States is vital to agriculture and trade. In a typical year on the Canadian prairies, about 140,000 producers deliver some 20 to 30 mmt of grain for export to primary elevators. In the United States, about 2.1 million producers deliver about 300 mmt of grain to primary elevators. Canadian grain is moved to export position using more than 400,000 hopper cars and marine containers, where about 1,200 ships per year are loaded. In the United States, about 1.08 million rail carloads of grain are originated per year, and about 23 mmt of grain are shipped on barges per year. These U.S. figures are in addition to trucks, which, more so than in Canada, are also used to deliver grain to primary processors and to terminal and export markets. The volume of grain trade gives rise to concern about risks of terrorism in the sector.(1) From a security perspective, the grain, pulse and oilseed supply chain is noteworthy because much of it is characterized by relatively long-term, insecure, bulky storage (particularly on farms) along with numerous modal and inter-modal product transfers. These factors suggest there are many places where chemical or biological contaminants could be introduced into this supply chain. From the perspective of the United States, security throughout the Canadian system as well as the U.S. system is a concern, since cross-border traffic in these products is significant, with an average of about six million tonnes of grain products alone imported into the U.S. each year (USDA-FAS, 2003). Numerous interventions to enhance food safety and mitigate the risk of terrorism have been adopted or are in the process of being developed. Some of these are private initiatives and voluntary, as a component of firm-level security processes. Others are being adopted in response to legislated initiatives. The stakes are large, and there are likely to be substantial differences in costs and effectiveness of different approaches.

Issue Date:
May 27 2004
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Record Identifier:
PURL Identifier:
Published in:
CAFRI: Current Agriculture, Food and Resource Issues, Issue 5
Page range:
Total Pages:
Series Statement:
Number 5

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2018-01-22

Download fulltext

Rate this document:

Rate this document:
(Not yet reviewed)