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Are You Ready For An Agriculture Emergency?

Published Apr. 12, 2010 | Discuss this article on Facebook

04/08/2010  |  Geni Wren, Editor, Bovine Veterinarian Magazine

The 2007 Ag Census from the USDA indicated that there were 656,475 operations specializing in beef cattle ranching and farming, and 31,065 cattle feedlots, for a total of 687,540 beef operations. In 2007, there also were 57,318 farms in the United States that specialized in dairy cattle and milk production. Now add in the swine, poultry and small ruminant operations, and you can see there are a lot of livestock operations that could potentially be under threat from natural disasters/emergencies or agroterrorism.

We’ve seen in the last few years emergencies of the natural sort – floods, snowstorms, heat-related deaths, fires. Fortunately we have not seen intentionally induced emergencies such as bioterrorism, but the industry is paying attention to potential threats.

There is a growing volume of information on handling livestock in emergencies or in an agroterrorism situation, and many hands on-learning opportunities. Take, for example, recent agrosecurity workshops in Kansas for producers, emergency managers, veterinarians, law enforcement, Extension agents and others. "Many counties in states across the country have a plan that includes agriculture, but many more don´t," said Billy Dictson, director of the Office of Biosecurity in the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at New Mexico State University, in a Kansas State University press release. “One of the things that really concerned us was that in 3,000-some counties across the country, most of them are silent on agriculture."

The workshops were presented by the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), a collaborative multi-state effort by Extension services across the country to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. The workshops were designed to build capacity to handle agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster, to improve networking among stakeholders who can plan for and respond to emergencies, and to develop community agrosecurity planning (CAP) teams who will establish or enhance agrosecurity components within existing local emergency operations plans.

"After 9-11, greater concern surfaced about the safety of our food supply," Dictson said. "Remember, every plane, including crop dusters, was grounded for several days after 9-11. At that time, ag didn´t really have a place at the national `table.´ I would submit that if we ever have a foreign animal disease incident introduced, it will far surpass the devastation caused by 9-11."

To read the entire article by Geni Wren, visit

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