By Jackie SosbyGeorgia Department of Agricultureand Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaGeorgia just increased its agroterrorism preparedness anotherlevelby launching the local phase of the Agrosecurity Awareness TrainingJuly 1.”Whether it’s a natural disaster, an animal disease, foodcontamination or a deliberate act of agroterrorism, the peoplewho complete the training will know how to recognize something iswrong, who to call and what to do if it occurs,” said GeorgiaDepartment of Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin. “The ultimategoal is to make sure that Georgia agriculture and food are safe andsecure.”Georgia’s Homeland Security Task Force Agroterrorism Committeesponsors the training program which is being delivered across thestate by University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents. Thecommittee is chaired by Lee Myers, state veterinarian and assistantcommissioner of animal industry for the Georgia Department ofAgriculture.Trainings across the stateUp to 3,500 agriculture first responders are expected toreceive training over the next six months. The goal is to providebasic agrosecurity awareness training to people across Georgiawho would likely mobilize during an agrosecurity incident.”We were the first state to include local jurisdictions in ourstatewide homeland security agriculture assessment,” Irvin said.”We knew we had to get down to the local level to adequately builda proper defense against agroterrrorism.”UGA and partners from government agencies developed the trainingwith a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Thecurriculum includes textbooks, presentations and a website withmaterials and information about the one-day training sessions.”This training, which is already considered a nationalmodel,helps address how we will safeguard Georgia’s agriculturalsector and food supply, both key components of our criticalinfrastructure,” said OHS-GEMA Director Mike Sherberger.County agents will conductUGA Extension agents, who will conduct one-day trainingsessions intheir communities, were trained this spring. Potential participantsinclude traditional first responders, such as law enforcement,firefighters and EMS, as well as farmers, veterinarians, foodprocessing managers, grocery store managers and others engaged inagriculture or agribusiness.”UGA Cooperative Extension is in a unique position to provideeducational training, especially on issues of agrosecurity,” saidDon Hamilton, UGA Extension’s homeland security coordinator. “Ourrepresentatives are on the front lines of food and agriculture eachday serving as expert eyes and ears across the state.”Hamilton says once trained, class participants will betterknow howto spot an agrosecurity incident and what to do if an incidentoccurs.”We’re educating folks on the value of agriculture in our state,and our ultimate aim is to make sure Georgia’s agriculture is safeand secure,” he said. “That’s a full-time job.”Hamilton said agrosecurity incidents can range from aterrorist actto someone unknowingly bringing an agricultural disease into thecountry.Not just terrorist acts”Agrosecurity incidents aren’t limited to manmade or terroristevents,” he said. “They encompass almost any event in the food andagriculture arena that would affect human health and theagricultural economy.”Incidents include natural disasters, he said, which UGA Extensionis already traditionally prepared to handle.”The way emergencies are handled is essentially the same whetherit’s manmade or something from Mother Nature,” Hamilton said.”Our county Extension agents are an essential part of theagrosecurity process,” he said, “because we have a smooth systemfor disseminating information during times of disaster. These newtrainings will further strengthen local communities’ capabilitiesin the event of an incident.”If you are a potential first responder and want to sign up for anagrosecurity training session, visit the program Web site atwww.agrosecurity.uga.edu or call your local UGA Extension agent.