Basic Biosecurity Preparedness

Agricultural Disaster Preparedness and Recovery December 18, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Make physical security a number one priority

All pesticides, fuels, feed, and chemicals must be kept in secure areas. Limit access points to fields, farmsteads, and key buildings. Most farmsteads (especially livestock operations) have multiple off-the-road access points where people can walk or drive right up to barns, sheds, milking parlors, feed bins, and other critical areas. Close off unnecessary or unused access points. Evaluate the possibility of using gates that can be equipped with remote controlled openers. Invest in security lighting. Protecting against “terrorists” will also protect against routine theft, vandalism, and trespassing.

Practice sound biosecurity principles

Efforts must be taken to protect animal and plant systems from a range of biosecurity threats, including contamination from intentional and unintentional disease threat sources. Consult with a veterinarian on specific steps to take. Personal hygiene, wearing clean clothing, and sanitizing boots and other protective gear will help prevent spread of disease. Similarly, vehicle traffic should be limited to prevent spread of pathogens on truck tires. Limit visitors to animal operations, especially visitors who will have direct contact with animals. Make sure no contact occurs between livestock and visitors who have recently visited a country where certain animal diseases (such as foot-and-mouth disease) are endemic. Place new animals coming into a herd/flock in a “quarantine” facility and observe these animals and their health status for several days or until cleared by a qualified veterinarian.

Know whom you hire

Producers must contend with increasingly challenging labor issues. Unlike the “old days,” one may no longer personally know each individual hired. Workers are a possible threat but they also are an important security asset. Make sure all employees are qualified to do their work. Ask for and check references from past employers. Many producers conduct background checks on workers and run their operation like any other vulnerable industry.

Know whom to call

If you or anyone working for you observes anything strange or unexpected, notify proper authorities quickly. Unusual animal illness could indicate a foreign animal disease; contact your veterinarian at once. Strange crop disease observations should be reported to local Extension offices. If you find signs of tampering or suspect that someone has had access to bulk tanks, fertilizers, pesticides, feed and grain bins, or other sensitive areas, call your local law enforcement agency or 911. In most states, local authorities are networked directly to appropriate agencies involved in an agricultural incident response. If an incident has occurred, do not try to clean up the scene or take other actions except those immediately critical to life and health. A scene where tampering, theft, or other actions have occurred must be treated as a crime scene and investigated appropriately. Rapid response to an incident could save lives and dollars.

Learn from producer organizations

The farm press, radio, and many producer organizations have made biosecurity and other initiatives to protect agriculture a number one priority. Seek out the facts, hunt for new information, and look for specific actions you can take to protect your operation, your family, and your business. An attack on any sector of the agricultural economy will have dramatic ripple effects. As an example, if you produce pigs, a large-scale intentional or accidental outbreak of a soybean disease will affect your bottom line. If you are a dairy producer, and grocery store dairy products are targeted by terrorists, your markets and consumer confidence will be affected.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.