COLUMBUS, Ohio - Just how prepared local and state agencies would be in the face of an agri-terrorism threat is the focus of a new Ohio State University study.
The study, titled "State and Local Preparedness for Agricultural Terrorism," is supported by a one-year $66,000 Ohio Criminal Justice Services grant. The purpose of the project is to bring together representatives from "all walks of agricultural life" to discuss targets for potential terrorism and the appropriate responses to those threats or attacks at the local and state levels.
"Agricultural terrorism can have many sources not only outside this country, but inside as well," said Joe Donnermeyer, an Ohio State criminologist and head of the project. "Agriculture is the state's largest industry and any attack on the industry would be economically damaging. We not only must think about threats to our livestock but to all aspects of the food and fiber system. What about water safety, field crops, and retail and wholesale food processing? These are huge areas that must be considered as targets of terrorism."
Donnermeyer, a professor of human and community resource development within the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, said the key to preparedness is communication between local and state agencies.
The project involves a series of forums comprised of representatives from Ohio State, the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, as well as farmers and individuals in the restaurant and food processing industries.
"The groups will be examining various issues on behalf of individuals in Ohio and will discuss where we should go in the future," said Donnermeyer. "Each group will meet three times and consider a set of questions about issues of terrorism starting with the farm level and proceeding to food processing and retail."
The goal of the study is to produce detailed reports on preparedness issues including recommendations on how to improve communications and preparations through better planning and increased funding of actions necessary to protect Ohio's food and agricultural industries.
"The incidence of an agri-terrorism attack remains highly improbable, but it's just a good idea to stop and consider such a situation," said Donnermeyer. "The public good from adequate preparedness is well worth the cost, even if the probability of an incident is low. Preparedness for terrorism improves the quality of service provided by first responder agencies at the local level, improves cooperation between these agencies, and enhances communication between local agencies and their state-level counterparts."