Agri-terrorism funding needed

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 21, 2005
by WLJ
Federal funding to help states prepare for and prevent terrorism aimed at food producers is less than adequate, an Iowa agriculture department official told members of Congress last week. “There's been almost insignificant funding for agriculture and we're seeing it reduced even more as we look at funds being diverted to the larger cities and away from rural states such as Iowa," said Jane Colacecchi, executive liaison to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge.
Colacecchi told the Senate Agriculture Committee last Tuesday that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials have not included agriculture systems as critical assets needing protection from bio-terrorism.
“Up until recently they were really talking about things that you could blow up, bricks and mortar," she said.
She said agriculture production should be viewed as a system that includes everything from farms, manufacturing and processing plants and transportation/distribution of products.
"If you look at the corn production or cattle production systems in Iowa, no single component of that system may be identified as a critical asset, but it's a multibillion dollar industry," she said.
Failure to recognize agriculture production as a critical asset has caused a lack of funding to protect it, she said.
“We really need to continue to voice a strong opinion in Washington in order to get funding to the agricultural states,” she said. “It's America's food supply and the government at the federal level has really done an inadequate job of identifying that as a critical asset.”
Colacecchi and Iowa State Veterinarian Dr. John Schiltz updated the committee on the state's preparedness for animal disease emergencies.
Plans have been developed for veterinarians around the state to be part of a disease reporting network, Schiltz said.
The Rapid Veterinarian Response Teams would coordinate a response to an incident anywhere in the state. He said more than 200 veterinarians have agreed to be part of the group.
Training sessions also have been held around the state to teach mayors, county supervisors, farmers and others in how to deal with and report an animal disease emergency.
The Iowa Law Enforcement Academy has incorporated information about the role of local officers in an emergency, which could include isolating hundreds of animals and closing off large tracts of land, Colacecchi said.
"The state plans and what we've done with the counties up to this level really does put in place what we need to do in order to respond, but we want to continue to fine tune those responses," she said. "I'm very confident in what we have in place so far. I just think there's always room to continue to build on those plans," she said.
Additional food safety experts testified that additional homeland security funding needs to be given to all states with a heavy agriculture industry, particularly those with a very heavy focus on food manufacturing and processing. Extra funds for the heavy beef producing states of Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado was called a “major priority,” by several who testified in front of the committee.