Experts: Agriculture "very vulnerable" to terror plots - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Experts: Agriculture "very vulnerable" to terror plots

November 30, 2005

Lowndes County -- The possibility of terrorists attacking America through our food supply is real, and considered a national security threat.

Wednesday, farmers and first responders learned how they can protect the Ag industry from terrorism, and how to react if an attack occurs.

Much of South Georgia is open farmland, vulnerable to terrorists, hoping to strike our nation with another devastating attack. "You've got farms with no fences, no gates, so those sites are very vulnerable," said Mickey Fourakers, Extension Agent.

"Someone could come in and put a contaminant in or cause some problem in that way," said Fourakers.

It's an easy target, but first responders and farmers in Lowndes County are working to make sure the Ag industry is protected. They're taking part in Agri-Security training to learn, "How to recognize an event and what steps to take as far as reporting it and getting it contained," said Fourakers.

It could be anything from injecting plants with poisonous substances to infecting livestock with diseases like hoof and mouth or the Avian Flu.

However the terrorists may strike, the first line of defense is the farmer. "If it was an animal with hoof and mouth, with slobbering or nasal discharge, you'd report it to a vet and then they'd report it to the Department of Ag and the local emergency management would quarantine the area," said Fourakers.

One person failing to recognize those signs could lead to economic devastation, and even the loss of human life. "Some 13 to 15 percent of our economy comes from agricultural products," said EMA Director Nick Lacey.

"If you had an infection, say in your cow heard, and you didn't know it, it could be spread from farm through the selling of livestock," said farmer Ken Carter.

But after today's training, these individuals will be more alert to a potential threat, so they can stop it before it happens. Today's agri-security training is part of a state initiative put on by the Georgia's Office of Homeland Defense.

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