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COLUMBUS Experts warn farmers of bioterrorism threats



Published: Thu, February 21, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The speaker said he thinks farmers are ahead of the security game.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Farmers will have to stay on their toes to guard against the possibility of bioterrorism in America's agricultural areas, the head of a national farm lobby says.

"Know when someone's on your property. Could someone contaminate a grain bin with some product?" American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman said Wednesday.

"It really boils down to common sense," Stallman said.

Stallman was in Columbus to address agricultural leaders at the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's legislative day as about 160 farmers and farm advocates descended on the Statehouse to meet with lawmakers and legislative leaders.

Stallman, a rice and cattle farmer from Texas, said the terrorist attacks last year in New York City and the Washington, D.C., area were a call to farm leaders to take notice on agriculture security.

Ahead of the game: But Stallman said agriculture, fresh from trying to prevent the spread of livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, was probably better prepared than most industries to deal with security issues.

"I don't think anyone can say it won't happen," Stallman said of a possible attack on America's food supply. "But I think we've done a lot to ensure food safety. "In Ohio, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has put out advisories to farmers statewide on biosecurity issues, telling Ohio farmers to take additional precautions.

"Our farms are not armed camps," said Mark Anthony, an agriculture department spokesman.

"There are different things that can be done: Barns can be locked, security response plans can be brainstormed and drafted and put into place, almost common-sense things that became more important on Sept. 12," Anthony said in an interview.

Biosecurity is among issues that the National Farm Bureau Federation will be following across the nation along with the federal farm bill pending before Congress, regulatory issues and opening up foreign markets to American farm products.




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