Thomas County looks at Agro Security - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Thomas County looks at Agro Security

April 11, 2006

Thomasville- Argi-terrorism is a real threat. As many as ten cases of food tampering are reported every day in the United States. The University of Georgia is working with first responders to make them more aware of the potential threat in south Georgia.

South Georgia farmers prep fields for this years crops, while first responders learn how to keep those fields safe from a real threat, agri-terrorism.

"This is the first training we've had in this field. It's not something we would typically respond to in our everyday situations," said Chris Jones, Thomas County Fire Chief, EMS Director.

"Georgia is one of the top states in preparedness, we're further along than many other states, but are we totally prepared, the answer would be no," said Dr. Bill Thomas, Argibusiness & Economic Development.

With bird flu expected in North and South America before the years end and other potential terrorism threats to the nations food supply, the first line of defense is being prepared for potential problems.

"Part of that would include, tightening up on security and just being aware of something that is unusual, whether it's a sick animal, sick plant, or somebody that's not supposed to be there that's hanging around your operation," said Thomas.

Right now, the nation pays about one billion dollars annually to keep the food supply safe, but last year food borne diseases caused nearly five thousand deaths and 325 thousand hospitalizations. Local responders hope to keep up with the potential threat.

"If we have a small group that just continues to meet and get updates of other situations, how they were handled and case studies, and to just keep us more aware of our surroundings and the potential for this type of incident," said Jones.

So, south Georgia's fields can remain secure with a network of farmers and first responders working together to ensure their safety.

More than 30 billion pounds of food is also imported into the U.S. for consumption each year, but only about two percent of it is inspected.

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