April’s Ag Advice

April's Ag Advice by April Borders Homeland security is an issue that affects all of us in agriculture. Since Sept. 11, 2001 we have heard much about homeland security throughout the United States.

We now fully realize that we in the United States can potentially be a target for nearly any kind of illegal activity, even to the point of terrorist threats and actions. Agriculture can potentially be a target as well.

We need to be aware of security issues and the related actions we need to take to keep ourselves, our ag supplies, and our ag commodities safe.

Homeland security, biosecurity and agrosecurity, so what are all of these terms we hear on the news? Recently the federal government created the Office of Homeland Security to oversee the security issues and enforcement efforts throughout the United States.

USDA then began to develop many materials to address homeland security in agriculture. There are two main areas on ag security. They are biosecurity and agrosecurity.

We have heard about biosecurity on the news. In general, it deals with the threat and spread of animal diseases like Foot and Mouth Disease and issues of contamination of food with microbial agents. Agrosecurity, on the other hand, deals with the risks that our crops could be sabotaged and our pesticides used as weapons.

Ag chemicals have played a huge part in increasing agricultural productivity but if placed in the wrong hands we could find ourselves in a very dangerous situation. By now you are probably thinking that this won't really happen, not here in South Dakota. Never say never.

Here are some examples, from across the US, of what we are talking about:

* 1984 incident: Salmonella (food poisoning) intentionally put into a salad bar by followers of a religious cult.

* 2000 incident: arsenic (old grasshopper poison) in vending machine � unknown if intentional or not, but most likely intentional.

* 1995 � Oklahoma City bombing. The bomb in this case was made from a large amount of ammonium nitrate, a common agricultural fertilizer.

The bottom line to all of this, we need to be prepared. We need to have a plan for our agricultural chemicals like an emergency discharge response plan. We need to secure our materials. Remember, pesticides are hazardous materials by nature. We also need to report problems that we notice.

We do have a problem that is growing right in front of our faces. That problem has to deal with anhydrous ammonia. Agriculture has depended on anhydrous ammonia as a nitrogen fertilizer for crops for many years. The reality ? unfortunately, anhydrous is a major input into the production of methamphetamine, an illegal and powerful drug. South Dakota is NOT immune � meth labs are here. They are common and are growing in numbers.

As we head into spring, let's make sure that we are storing our chemicals safely. Anything that we can do to prevent someone from taking anhydrous is worth the effort. It can be simple, like using bright-colored cable ties or other wire ties. This won't stop theft but they will let you know if someone is tampering with your equipment.

Tank locks are an option that can be put on a tank. They completely cover the valves and hose, are locked down to the valve stems, and provide good security. You might even consider removing the hose. Keep a close eye on inventory. Just remember � don't ignore anything that looks suspicious � check it out and report it.

Agrosecurity is a responsibility for all of us. You play a critical role because you are at the front line of the ag industry. Unfortunately, illegal activities happen all around us and are increasing in our rural communities. We can make a difference if we are willing to take action.

For more information call the Extension Office at 677-7111. Information for this topic came from Brad Ruden, Extension Associate � Pesticide Impact Assessment � SDSU.

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