Lately I have been working with the Columbiana County Emergency Management Agency to formulate plans for dealing with animal disease outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease and other natural or man-made threats to agriculture.
We are setting up information networks for detection and communication of disease progress and control suggestions to growers and producers.
First on scene. We are planning training meetings for first responders involved in detection, diagnosis, control and isolation of highly contagious animal diseases.
Regulations and protocols are in place to ensure that first responders can find and diagnose diseases without at the same time spreading them further.
All around you. A massive effort is under way, for example, to plan detection and control protocols for soybean rust, foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease, West Nile virus, equine encephalitis, rabies, and several other diseases that could affect agriculture, and pose a threat to humans.
At the same time, efforts are under way to monitor and protect crops and livestock from man-made threats.
Key players. Agencies such as the Ohio Department of Agriculture, USDA, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS), Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Adjutant General’s Office, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ohio Emergency Management Agency, Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, Ohio State University Extension and others have been working to improve the detection, diagnosis, treatment and interdiction of serious diseases of livestock and crops.
A long list of agencies and organizations, including local emergency management agencies, Ohio State Highway Patrol and local law enforcement and emergency response organizations have responsibilities in case of natural or man-made disasters.
We are working on plans to detect and contain all conceivable disasters, including the threat of “weapons of mass destruction.”
Space invaders. However, despite these efforts, we have been invaded by foreign pathogens and insect pests.
Emerald ash borer infests Michigan and Ohio ash forests in the Toledo area. West Nile virus, the mosquito-borne disease of humans, birds and horses, was first found in New York City and has now been detected in every state east of the Mississippi.
Soybean aphid was first found in Ohio in 1998. Soybean rust, first found in Asia, caused serious losses in Brazil, has now been detected in several Gulf Coast States and could have a devastating effect on our U.S. crop in 2005.
Big job. Detecting new disease and insect invaders is a big job and a big responsibility.
The primary goal is to coordinate state, federal and local efforts to prevent, stop, and eliminate the spread of human, plant or animal disease.
In cases of highly contagious diseases, planning includes surveillance for disease cases in wild animals, quarantine of contaminated farms or areas, maintenance of biosecurity, decontamination of vehicles and personnel, destruction and disposal of infected animals and mental health counseling of livestock owners and other workers.
What are farmers doing? Farm managers are aware of the threats to their farm businesses and possible contamination of the food supply.
I see evidence that many farms are taking special precautions to secure pesticides, vaccines and equipment such as sprayers and manure pumps. They are alert for suspicious activities and unfamiliar people around their farms, equipment and livestock.
While such occurrences may seem insignificant or extremely localized, law enforcement officials might be aware of similar patterns in other parts of the county, region or state.
An increasing number of farms are equipped with signs, fencing, and surveillance equipment to detect or deter unauthorized entry. Farmers often require visitors to wear protective footwear and clothing and only work in their facilities with supervision.
Contact your local extension office for specific information on biosecurity planning and security measures for your farm.
(The author is an agricultural extension educator in Columbiana County. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)