A large flock of white chickens with red crops standing very close to one another in a barn.

Small Farms, Big Impact: Secure Food Supply Plans

Samantha ShieldsAnimal Health, Livestock diseases, Policy Leave a Comment

Livestock production in the United States varies in size and scope from large-scale commercial operations to small-scale, backyard producers. At the national level, plans have been created to ensure that in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak, unaffected parts of the agriculture industry can avoid interruption. These “food supply plans” may seem unimportant for farms with local markets and backyard producers. However, the ability of the global animal health system to prevent and limit foreign animal disease outbreaks is only as good as the willingness and the ability of producers both small and large to practice effective biosecurity.

The Secure Food Supply Plans (SFSP) were developed by the Center for Food Security and Public Health as guidelines to the response to outbreaks of the following highly contagious, foreign animal diseases:

  • Foot and mouth disease
  • Classical swine fever
  • African swine fever
  • Highly pathogenic avian influenza

Why the Plans Were Created

SFSP is meant to guide livestock stakeholders—producers, processors, and transporters—in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. These response plans are designed to support the continued movement of animals and animal products between uninfected producers to consumers. The goals are to maintain business continuity for these producers, limit the loss of income, and maintain the supply chain from producers to consumers (Center for Food Security and Public Health, 2019).

The Secure Food Supply Plans address four livestock production sectors. Each of these has a plan for outbreak response:

  1. Secure Beef Supply
  2. Secure Pork Supply
  3. Secure Milk Supply
  4. Secure Poultry Supply

The SFSP are meant to educate producers about proper planning and response to an outbreak on their farm or a neighboring farm. To minimize disease risks, all farms should be prepared and practice biosecurity precautions.

Biosecurity and Business Continuity

Disease outbreaks are a risk for any farm—large or small—and they all can be affected by neighboring farms, too. During times of outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease, avian influenza, or swine fever, if a farm does not have proper biosecurity measures in place there can be limitations on the movement of their animals and animal products, interrupting business continuity. For example, during foreign animal disease (FAD), an animal movement permit will be required. However, in order to request the permit, a biosecurity plan should be in place that meets the SFSP’s biosecurity checklist, and then reviewed by a state animal health official.

Implementing biosecurity procedures before an outbreak can prevent animals at an operation from being exposed. Once a producer has a plan written, it should be decided which items from the plan are implemented during an outbreak, and which can be implemented after an outbreak.

Biosecurity Practices Can Prevent Disease Outbreaks

Biosecurity is only as good as the measures enforced on the farm. This starts with the farm owner and their personnel. A farm owner typically does not have the ability to monitor an employee’s every move, so educating personnel about biosecurity builds awareness of risks and how to follow the procedures.

An example of a biosecurity challenge for livestock is wildlife living near a farm’s vicinity. Wildlife has the potential to increase the risk of infection and disease outbreaks at any size of livestock production facility. Wildlife of concern includes feral swine, deer, rodents, birds, ticks, and mosquitoes, and even pet dogs and cats. Ensuring that livestock barns, pens, feed storage areas, and watering stations are protected and in good condition will limit a herd’s exposure to wildlife.

Taking care of the small things can decrease livestock exposure to diseases. For example, the following items are important for biosecurity:

  • fixing breaks in fences;
  • patching up holes in barns to reduce rodent and bird entry;
  • limiting wildlife access to feed and water;
  • removing stagnant water to reduce mosquito breeding areas.

New or returning animals have the potential to bring disease into a livestock herd. When bringing new animals into a herd it is important to consider where the animals came from: was it a reliable source? It is important to get a health history of the herd an animal is coming from. Keeping animals separate for a period of time to ensure they will not introduce diseases into a herd is a very good biosecurity practice.

Disease outbreaks can occur at all levels of livestock production. The Secure Food Supply Plans were developed to address the challenges farms will face during a foreign animal disease outbreak. By developing a plan and following biosecurity practices, farms large and small can protect their herds, maintain production and continue to conduct business.


Center for Food Security and Public Health. (2019). Secure Food Supply Plans. Retrieved, from http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Secure-Food-Supply/

United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). (2018, December). Checklist for Self-Assessment of Implementing Poultry Biosecurity [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://poultrybiosecurity.org/files/Self-Assessment-Checklist-for-Enhanced-Poultry-Biosecurity.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). (2017, February). Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Response: Ready Reference Guide – Defining Permitted Movement [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergency_management/downloads/documents_manuals/rrg_definingpermittedmovement.pdf

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About the Author

Samantha Shields

Samantha Shields was an undergraduate student at the University of Vermont, studying for a Bachelor of Science in Biological Science, and a minor in Animal Science. She worked with ADBCAP Director Julie M. Smith, DVM, PhD, as an online outreach assistant intern. Samantha assisted with content development for the Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture website by evaluating, summarizing, and presenting information about protecting animal health. At the University of Vermont, she was an active member of many programs including RALLYTHON, University of Vermont Program Board, Campus Recreation, and the Women’s Club Hockey. Samantha is interested in pursuing the field of epidemiology after graduation. She has a particular interest in the research of different factors that result in diseases, as well as public health emergency planning and response.

About the Editor

Joanna Cummings

Joanna Cummings received a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture from The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), with a specialization in vegetable crop and greenhouse production. At PSU, she was a research technician on no-tillage vegetable crop experiments, and a greenhouse assistant in the All-American Selections Research Gardens. Her career in the agriculture industry includes field research, work with dairy and vegetable farms, and as a greenhouse manager, estate gardener, landscaping and market garden entrepreneur. She transitioned to the science communication field after receiving a master of science degree in environmental communications from Antioch University New England. At Antioch, Joanna was a field botany laboratory teaching assistant, manager of the herbarium, and editor of the department's student newsletter, Notes and Niches. She currently works with Research Professor Julie M. Smith as a communications professional in the University of Vermont Animal and Veterinary Sciences Department. She is the webmaster for the Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture website.

About the Editor

Dr. Julie Smith

Dr. Julie Smith is a research professor at the University of Vermont. Julie received her B.S. in biological sciences, D.V.M., and Ph.D. in animal nutrition at Cornell University. Since 2002, she has applied her veterinary background to programs in the areas of herd health, calf and heifer management, and agricultural emergency management. She has taught courses in animal welfare, calf biology and management, and ABCs of biosecurity to undergraduates, mostly in the Department of Animal and Veterinary Sciences. As a veterinarian and spouse of a dairy farmer, Julie is well aware of the animal health and well-being concerns of dairy animals. Julie has conducted trainings for Extension educators, livestock producers, and community members on the risks posed by a range of animal diseases, whether they already exist in the United States, exist outside of the United States, or pose a risk to both animal and human health. In all cases, she emphasizes the importance of awareness and prevention. In addition, she has led a number of projects on biosecurity and emergency disease preparedness.


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