Experts Say Farmers Need to Prepare for Agroterrorism

6/7/2014 7:00 AM

JEFFERSON, Ohio — Agroterrorism may be a term many farmers haven’t heard of, but it’s one they need to understand in order to combat it, according to an expert with Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Farmers are prepared to respond to natural disasters, but in an age where the risk of human-caused disasters such as agroterrorism is an issue, farmers must be vigilant and know what to look out for, said David Marrison, an Ohio State University Extension educator.

“It’s one of those things that we hope never happens, but based on the reality of how the world is today, it’s best to be prepared,” Marrison said.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website, agroterrorism is “the deliberate introduction of an animal or plant disease for the purpose of generating fear, causing economic losses or undermining social stability.”

Agriculture may not represent terrorists’ first choice of targets because it lacks the shock factor of more traditional attacks; however, it comprises the largest single sector in the U.S. economy, making agroterrorism a viable primary aspiration, according to the FBI.

“It could be someone tampering with a dairy farm’s milk production line or other food production on the farm,” Marrison said. “Farmers and frontline responders need to know what the risks are and how to respond. It’s all about being prepared for a worst-case scenario.”

For example, “most farmers keep their facilities unlocked,” Marrison said. “And some farmers may not be aware of who is on their farms at all times.

“It’s not that we don’t want to be able to trust people — farmers have to have their guard up because they’re producing food-grade soybeans, milk, wine and juice, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and meat,” he said. “So farmers may want to start locking certain areas of their farms and using cameras to monitor who is on their land.”

Source: Ohio State University.

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