Scientists Warn Of Threat To America’s Production Agriculture
Security has increased everywhere from airports to ballparks since Sept. 11, 2001, but even as security measures increase, experts warn of the growing risk of a new type of threat: eco-terrorism.This dangerous form of terrorism, often a violent protest against perceived harm to animals or the environment, has the potential to freeze America’s domestic and international agricultural markets, say experts.By injecting foreign animal diseases into highly concentrated areas of livestock, such as poultry houses, or infecting row crops and other plants with biological diseases, terrorists could disrupt both America’s domestic and foreign markets.”If terrorists realized the implications that stopping the economy could have on us, it seems conceivable that they would take a foreign animal disease and inject it into a highly concentrated area,” said Dr. Tony Frazier, the state veterinarian for Alabama. “That would stop our market and our foreign exports, and would more than likely be in more than one area.”Experts warn that this threat may not come from traditional terrorists, but instead could stem from animal rights or earth liberation groups who, according to Frazier, “want to inflict harm or fear on the producer or consumer.” While the problem is real, farmers and agricultural workers shouldn’t panic, but need to remain alert for irregular signs or activities. “Producers are encouraged to be cautious,” said Brian Hardin, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Division, Pork Division and Horticulture Division. “They should remain vigilant, and if they see anything suspicious we encourage them to contact the state veterinarian or an area plant inspector.”To encourage vigilance by farmers and agribusiness workers, Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks recently announced that signs would be placed on every poultry house in the state as reminders of practices growers should use daily in order to prevent agricultural bio-terrorism and poultry disease. Hardin said Alabama Pork Producers and the Pork Checkoff also are making signs (see inset) available to pork producers to prevent the intentional or unintentional spread of disease.”Because of the increasing importance to give due diligence to maintaining a bio-secure site, Alabama Pork Producers believe that the signs are a good investment of checkoff dollars,” Hardin said. “Many people are not aware of the potential humans have to carry germs that could lead to sickness in hogs. This investment is a great way to educate them and remind those of us that understand the risks.”While state officials are working hard to prevent an attack of this nature, they also are preparing emergency response systems and infrastructure in the case of an eco-terrorist incident. “We have an agricultural alert system, and everyone here is on a four-hour notice,” said Dr. Tomm Johnson, director of the Plant Division with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. “In an emergency, we have a way to contact everybody, and we have an instant command system set up to make sure we’re in communication with every agency that could become involved. I think that it is a possibility–some of the national folks say that it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when,'” said Frazier. “If you enjoy convenient, cheap, safe food then you should be concerned.” Frazier and Johnson may be reached at (334) 240-7255. Contact Hardin at email@example.com or 1-800-392-5705, ext. 4217.