Kentucky Course Focuses on Preventing Agriculture Terrorism

Dec. 22--A November seminar showed Lisa Hopper how agricultural terrorism could disrupt, if not devastate, a community.

From using farm supplies to make weapons to targeting animals, crops or food supplies, a terrorist attack could have wide-ranging economic and social consequences, she said.

The program specialist with the Green River District Health Department said the presentation in Hopkinsville showed her there are possible terrorist targets in this area.

She cited granaries, poultry farms and farm supply stores.

"Like they said in this class, more than likely (terrorists) are going to pick a smaller community because people think they won't," Hopper said.

So the health department is bringing the free course to its 1501 Breckenridge St. facility Jan. 10-12.

The course will look at terrorism; agricultural infrastructure threats; food processing and its transportation and distribution; and short- and long-term disposal, disinfection and/or decontamination.

"Preparedness and Response to Agricultural Terrorism" will be presented by the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education.

The center, which created the course with the U.S. Department for Homeland Security, is based at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Hopper said she contacted the center in August about bringing the course here in September, but Hurricane Katrina scrapped those plans.

Also, having it in January is better since it is typically a slow time for farmers, nearly a dozen of whom have voiced their support for the course, Hopper said.

She sent a letter announcing the course Dec. 9 to farmers, environmentalists, county extension agents, farm supply stores, hospitals, police and fire departments and emergency management agencies.

Hopper expects at least 60 attendees at the health department's first-floor Bedford Walker Conference Room.

"Hopefully, by word-of-mouth, (it) will get out to others," Hopper said. "If we have to move it to a larger area, it would be fine with us."

In addition to discussing responses to an attack, the course also will cover preventive measures, including knowing the history of animals and employees on a farm, she said.

It also discusses awareness -- of equipment, chemicals, animal and crop health, even location -- she said.

"If you have a farm by a big interstate, you could be more of a target" because of accessibility, Hopper said. In some states, such farmers have been encouraged to build perimeter fences, she added.

If the course "does nothing more than make (farmers) aware of things that could happen, then it would be worth their time," Hopper said.

While Clint Hardy, Daviess County's extension agent for agriculture, doesn't see a specific threat here, he said the course is a good idea because it increases awareness.

"It's probably a good idea to educate producers about this, that this is something that could be done," Hardy said.

Many farmers and farm suppliers already have increased awareness of some materials, such as anhydrous ammonia, a main ingredient in methamphetamine production, he said.

But farmers also need to be conscious of levels of fertilizers, especially the volatile types, and bulk fuels they store on their farms, Hardy said.

They also need to be aware of leaving equipment unattended overnight, especially trucks hauling chemicals that are left with the keys in the ignition, he said.

"In today's society, we need to be more careful, lock some locks we ordinarily wouldn't," Hardy said.

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