Energy, Agriculture Come Together for Biosecurity Innovation

Security is about more than protecting homes and businesses. It’s about protecting our identities, energy resources, finances and technological devices. Biosecurity is important, too: protecting humans and animals from harmful agents and diseases.

Biosecurity is essential to everyday life. It prevents diseases such as avian influenza (bird flu) and mad cow disease from spreading to or from agricultural areas. Stringent biosecurity measures are more important than ever: More than 2 million farms across the nation and more than 21 million American workers involved in producing, processing and selling food and fiber.

Energy and agriculture have intersected for ages. Natural gas industry employees and contractors interact with farmers and their properties every day, whether that’s for exploration and production or for operating pipelines. The energy industry recognizes that everyone is responsible for protecting our nation’s farms, and that has led to an important initiative in working hand in hand with American farms.

Sunoco Pipeline and PennAg Industries Association teamed this year to develop and launch a biosecurity training and education module that raises awareness of basic farm safety and etiquette for all industries, including energy. This innovative initiative will be presented during the Midstream PA 2017 conference Oct. 19 in a panel featuring Christian Herr, PennAg executive vice president, and Curtis Stambaugh, Sunoco assistant general counsel, along with Dr. Sherrill Davison, University of Pennsylvania laboratory director of avian medicine and pathology.

It might seem odd that an energy transportation company would partner with Pennsylvania’s premier agribusiness association, but the two recognized that their sectors undoubtedly overlap. The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) lists natural gas and agribusiness as two of the commonwealth’s key industries. Each industry knows that its success is partially dependent on working in tandem with the other.

“With the rapid growth of our nation’s energy industry … it is imperative that biosecurity is front and center to protect our nation’s livestock and crops,” Herr said.

The seriousness of biosecurity cannot be overstated. The avian flu outbreak in 2015 had a devastating impact on the Midwest, affecting more than 220 farms and more than 48 million birds. One poultry farm was forced to destroy more than 5.5 million infected birds. This equated to billions of dollars in losses and a hit to the U.S. food supply.

As a result of the avian flu outbreak, Sunoco Pipeline decided in 2015 to take the lead in developing a module to educate employees, contractors and vendors as part of the safety training for the Mariner East 2 pipeline project. The module educates users on how to protect animals and crops, and a certification is issued upon completion of the training. In January 2017, the module was made available during the Pennsylvania Farm Show. Sunoco Pipeline and PennAg are working to encourage other organizations and companies to use the module, which is available free through PennAg.

Herr commended Sunoco Pipeline for taking a leadership position on biosecurity, stating, “We look forward to furthering our partnership on this incredibly important initiative.”

For Sunoco Pipeline, the decision to invest in biosecurity education was a no-brainer. “Our company has operated in Pennsylvania for more than 80 years and has worked closely with farmers for generations to make sure our workers do not endanger animals and crops,” Stambaugh said. “Having grown up on a dairy farm, biosecurity is a topic that is very personal. I’m proud that Sunoco Pipeline is taking a leadership role by partnering with PennAg on this training module.”

As natural gas continues to grow in popularity, you can expect more natural gas and agribusiness companies to work closely to ensure the best for both sectors. The biosecurity partnership between Sunoco Pipeline and PennAg shows that valuable relationships between energy and agriculture can, and should, happen.

Stambaugh, Herr and Davison will discuss how Sunoco sought to protect agribusiness during the Mariner East 2 pipeline development at Midstream PA 2017 on Oct. 19 in State College. For more information, please visit www.midstreampa.com.

Chris Getman is co-lead of Bravo Group’s energy infrastructure practice, bringing nearly 20 years of experience in public relations, corporate and marketing communications and advocacy expertise to Bravo’s energy clients.