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first_imgPreparing GeorgiaAs officials in Mississippi and Louisiana now know firsthand, anaction plan is needed to make sure food is available during adisaster.”We typically have about a seven-day food supply in our grocerystores,” said Wade Hutcheson, a UGA Extension agent in SpaldingCounty. “That’s not including the items that are supplied dailylike milk and bread. When there’s snow or a hurricane headed ourway, those items just fly off the shelves.”Hutcheson said the main goals of the agrosecurity trainings areto educate responders on possible threats and to encouragecommunities to prepare disaster plans.”Georgia’s farmers and farm workers must be aware of the damageforeign plant diseases and pests can do to their crops,” he said.”A safe, secure and inexpensive food supply is the foundation ofour society. An increased awareness of crop biosecurity couldkeep Georgia’s food secure in the short and long term.” Ag – big contributor to state’s economyIn Georgia alone, two-thirds of the state’s counties reportagriculture as the largest or second largest sector of theeconomy, Lynch said.Threats to food production can come from terrorists, naturaldisasters and accidental and intentional diseases, Lynch saidduring a recent training for 60 emergency workers from fivemiddle Georgia counties.Trainings like this are being taught statewide by experts fromthe Georgia Department of Agriculture and UGA College ofAgricultural and Environmental Sciences. More than 3,000emergency first responders should be trained by the year’s end.”Ag workers and traditional responders need to be ready torapidly and effectively resolve an emergency situation beforecatastrophic consequences occur,” Lynch said.In addition to the loss of crops and herds, an agriculturaldisaster can also affect a producer’s mental state. Emergencypersonnel must also be prepared to deal with these issues aswell, she said. In agricultural emergencies, improper disposal of diseased animalcarcasses can have environmental and economic consequences, Lynchsaid. If a poultry disease strikes in Georgia, the entire nationwould be affected. By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaAlong the Gulf Coast, the nation has seen firsthand how a naturaldisaster can quickly destroy food supplies. In Georgia, farm anduniversity experts are teaching emergency workers and people inagriculture how to identify and handle threats to the foodproduction.”Our food supply … needs to be protected,” said Dana Lynch, aUniversity of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition specialist.”Our nation is the largest exporter of food products. And about17 percent of all the jobs in the U.S. are linked to the foodindustry.”center_img Plants, animals must be protected”Georgia produces 24.6 million pounds of chicken meat in oneday,” said John Pope, UGA Extension agent for Monroe County. “Ifdiseases like avian influenza and Exotic Newcastle strike thepoultry industry, they would have a serious negative impact.”Plant diseases are a threat, too. UGA plant pathologist MilaPearce says most people don’t realize that ornamental plantdiseases can also affect production.”You may say, ‘Who cares about what’s killing Ms. Johnson’sgeraniums?’ ” Pearce said. “Geraniums and potatoes are from thesame family, and you probably do care about french fries andmashed potatoes.”Pesticide costs and yield losses from plant diseases cost theU.S. $20 billion a year, Pearce said.”We fight a constant battle against diseases every day,” shesaid. “Never mind what some terrorist has up his sleeve.”Pearce does have good news. Intentional introduction of a plantdisease is a “very, very difficult” task.”Introducing a plant disease into our food production would notbe a very good tactic for a terrorist,” she said. “It’s virtuallyimpossible to do. Spreading disease is an abominable task. It’svery hard for even us to do in our research labs.”last_img

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