Texting O K

What should you do if you want to know your family is safe after a weather, terror, or other emergency event?  Text first.  Talk second.  The Safe America Foundation has launched a “text first/talk second” campaign coinciding with the anniversary 9/11.  Think about it.  Texting “I M O K” takes less than 2 seconds and uses a fraction of the bandwidth of a call.  In fact, 800 people can text “I M O K” in the bandwidth required for one phone call.  If you need a primer on texting, see a teenager.

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ReadyAG is a multi-state collaborative project which utilizes the expertise of Cooperative Extension professionals from multiple land grant universities in development of a set of disaster planning and continuity of operations worksheets for each of the major agriculture commodities.

ReadyAG is multi-state collaborative project has utilized the expertise of Cooperative Extension professionals from multiple land grant universities in development of a set of disaster planning and continuity of operations worksheets for each of the major agriculture commodities.

There are things—big and little—on a dairy farm that can lead to disruptions, interruptions, or catastrophes. Are you ready? Dave Filson of Penn State University pointedly asks: “If a disaster hit your farm or ranch today, would you still be in business next month?”

Dave led a multi-state, multi-commodity effort funded by USDA NIFA Special Needs to identify the critical points on farms and develop a check list to help prioritize actions that need taken to improve resilience* of individual operations. The assessment tool is available at . If completed online, the action plan will automatically fill with the control points that have not been completed, then the user can fill in the specifics on how the item will be addressed and by when. The tool has a general section that is broadly applicable to most types of farms followed by sections specific to dairy, beef, swine, poultry, fruit and vegetables, and crops. The user can select which sections apply and only those will populate the online interface. Check it out and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions!

* I paraphrase the definition of resilience as “the ability to adapt to and survive disruptive change.”


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NACAA Update on NBAF

I attended the Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (that’s NACAA AM/PIC, for short) in Overland Park, KS, in August. Fortunately the temps did not soar into the 100s during our visit.

The conference offered many opportunities for participants to get tips on programs or programming strategies and methods. We also went on local tours and met local “dignitaries.” I had the opportunity to visit personally with Dr. Ron Trewyn, Vice President for Research at Kansas State University. He spoke at the general session of the first full day of the NACAA AM/PIC and focused on the rationale for supporting the siting of the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS. K-State already is home to a new Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) that specializes in studying foreign diseases of livestock. The NBAF would enhance their capabilities to study diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease which is currently only studied in the US at the Biosecurity Safety Level-4 Ag research facility on Plum Island (which is slated to close). Based on the pictures Dr. Trewyn showed of the BRI, it is clear the NBAF will be well-designed, exceeding nuclear plant earthquake and FEMA tornado shelter standards, and incorporates redundancy of critical systems. K-State is positioning itself as “America’s CDC for Animal Health.” Dr. Trewyn is well aware of the public relations and security issues associated with running such a facility. He shared my hope that the publicity surrounding the location of the laboratory in KS will foster better foreign animal disease preparedness at the farm level and among communities across the country.

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USDA APHIS Proposed Animal Disease Traceability Rule

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) issued a proposed rule on August 11 to establish general regulations for improving the traceability of U.S. livestock moving interstate if an animal disease event takes place.

Under the proposed rule, livestock moving interstate would have to be officially identified, unless specifically exempted. The proposed rule encourages the use of low-cost technology and specifies approved forms of official identification for each species, such as metal eartags for cattle.

For more information regarding the proposed animal traceability rule visit http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/2011/08/pdf/QAtraceabil.VS.pdf or for general information about USDA-APHIS visit www.aphis.usda.gov

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Across the Fence episode: Preparing Our Communities for an Agricultural Emergency

On August 9, 2011  UVM Extension Family & Youth Development Specialist Dr. Ellen Rowe and I appeared on WCAX’s daily program Across the Fence to promote our AFRI Biosecurity project’s upcoming Public Policy Forum on September 14, 2011 at the American Legion in Vergennes, VT from 11:30 am to 2 pm.

A big thank you goes out to the entire crew of Across the Fence for producing such a wonderful program.  Check out the video by clicking the picture at the top right of the page (under the header) or by clicking the link underneath the picture.

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Is there an alternative to burial and burning?


Anyone who has looked at pictures from the UK, Japan, or South Korea during their confrontations with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the past decade has probably asked themselves whether “we” would be better prepared or more effective in our response if FMD were found in the US.  I have been following several developments that demonstrate the US has learned lessons from other countries’ experiences.  One key shift in policy has been the incorporation of vaccination into the decision-tree of approaches that could be implemented, depending on the location, affected species, and potential spread of the disease.  Research currently focuses on developing vaccines with more rapid effectiveness and those that enable distinguishing vaccinated animals from infected animals by use of a DIVA (differentiate infected from vaccinated animals) test.  Another key shift in response strategy has been the realization that miles of trenches may not be the best answer to disposing of animals that must be depopulated.  Capturing value through slaughter, rendering, or composting may be more desirable outcomes.  Minimizing the need for depopulation (and for digging trenches) is something that producers and stakeholders can influence by following everyday and emergency biosecurity protocols.

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Bury our way out of foot-and-mouth disease? Think again.

To illustrate the importance of considering alternatives to burial as a carcass management option, Lori Miller of USDA APHIS, has made it easy to visualize some mind boggling statistics.  Policy-makers and those qualified as incident commanders would do well to take these to heart.  I have converted the figures to Vermont equivalents aside from the starting point.  Let’s start with a large 100,000 head feedlot in the heart of feedlot country (TX panhandle, OK, KS, and NE).  What are the basic disposal capabilities needed?  At 1000 lbs per head and waste transport containers with 30-ton capacity, somewhere around 1700 loads would be required to take the animals (if euthanized) to a disposal site.  Picture 1700 containers on trucks end-to-end.  They would stretch almost half way from Burlington to Montpelier.  The trench, if dug one-animal wide (8 ft long per animal), would stretch 151 miles or from Burlington to Brattleboro.  I haven’t mentioned the time it would take to dig such a trench, or whether there is available land suitable for burial, or how to manage the leachate.  As far as disposal options go, burial is probably not the best choice for carcass management on a large scale.

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Recent foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks deserve a closer look

Taiwan 1997

Taiwan was free of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) from 1929 until 1997.  An outbreak in 1997 spread rapidly among swine herds resulting in the destruction of 3.8 million pigs and loss of export markets.  Taiwan now produces 6 million pigs per year, about half as many as it did in the mid-1990s.  Vaccination was used to control the epidemic in swine and the country has failed to regain the OIE status “free without vaccination” needed to resume exports.

UK 2001

The United Kingdom had been free of FMD since 1967 until the 2001 outbreak that affected swine, sheep, dairy, and beef holdings across much of the country from February through September.  Related outbreaks were found in Northern Ireland, France, and the Netherlands and quickly brought under control.  The toll on the countryside is counted as 6 million animals and the equivalent of 13 billion dollars (US).  Many rural tourism-related businesses went out of business.  The UK was declared “free without vaccination” in January 2002.

Japan 2010

The Miyazaki prefecture on the island of Kyushu, famous for supplying Waygu cattle, experienced an epizootic of FMD between April and August 2010.  The last outbreak there had been experienced ten years prior.  Confirmation of the disease was slow, contributing to its spread among cattle, water buffalo, swine, sheep, and goats.  Disease was controlled using vaccination to slaughter.  Almost 300,000 animals were slaughtered to control the disease.  Free status without vaccination was granted by OIE in February 2011.

South Korea 2010-2011

South Korea brought 2 outbreaks of FMD quickly under control in early 2010, then was caught seemingly off-guard by an outbreak that spread rapidly and persisted through the winter.  There was hope the disease had stopped spreading and animal movement restrictions were lifted in early April only to have the disease identified in new herds later in the month.  The situation was not resolved as of late May 2011.  Since late November 2010 a total of 3.5 million cattle and pigs were culled for disease control at a cost approaching 2.7 billion dollars (US).

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Important Lessons from 2011 Dairy Industry Crisis Drills

In May I attended the first of three 2011 Dairy Industry Crisis Drills in which the featured scenario involves foot-and-mouth disease.  These drills were coordinated by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the dairy check off program.  You may be familiar with the “Got Milk?” and “Fuel Up to Play 60” milk promotion campaigns sponsored by dairy check off funds.  In addition to these direct promotion efforts, DMI and related organizations invest in communications research and response strategies to address issues that may impact consumer confidence in, and consequently consumption of, dairy products.  The Dairy Response Center is an example of how DMI provides dairy producers with key information on issues of concern to consumers.

Back to the drill.  Rumors started circulating at the opening reception.  Over the next 24 hours, 90 people associated with the dairy industry from farm to processing plant participated in a facilitated discussion-based exercise.  Participants were seated in groups designated “Unified Command”, “National Operations Center”, “Joint Information Center”, “Dairy Promotion”, “Dairy Producers”, “Dairy Cooperatives”, and “US Dairy Exports”.  A variety of activities as groups and in break out sessions helped identify issues and concerns and the associated communications challenges.

Here are a few things I learned:

Don’t speculate when being interviewed by the press. Boy is this a tough one for me since my research and outreach activities revolve around hypothetical scenarios like the one played out during the drill.

Don’t get caught up by the negativity of social media. Have a plan to place positive messages and links to correct information in the streams of tweets, blog posts, and comments.  I will be trying out my wings with Twitter in the near future.

There is a term for those folks ready to attack anyone and anything – “citizens against virtually everything” or CAVE. A few well-prepared experts and spokespersons need to be on call and be proactive.

Stay on message. Hard as it may be to say the same thing for one hour, that is the only way to make sure only key messages are amplified by the media.

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Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP) Workshop

Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP) workshop held in Rutland, VT on May 13 & 14 to address agricultural gaps in Vermont's local and state emergency operations plans.

On May 13 & 14, 2011, UVM Extension held a Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP) workshop in Rutland, VT to address agricultural gaps in Vermont’s local and state emergency operations plans.  The S-CAP program is sponsored by the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) with funding from the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) and Smith-Lever funds.  The S-CAP workshop was taught by Agrosecurity Program Coordinator Andrea Husband and Senior Extension Associate Ricky Yeargan of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension with assistance from trainers-in-training from Montana, Utah, and Vermont.  Local, state, and federal employees from Vermont and New York participated, as did Extension specialists from Vermont and Maine.  For more information about the S-CAP workshop contact Dr. Julie Smith at Julie.M.Smith@uvm.edu.

Back row: Ricky Yeargan (UKY Extension), Dr. Roger Ellis (NYS Dept of Ag and Markets), Mark Hutchinson (UME Extension), Lee Schmelzer (Montana State Extension), Londa Nwadike (UVM Extension).  Middle Row: Dr. Warren Hess (Utah Dept. of Ag), Andrea Husband (UKY Extension), Julie Smith (UVM Extension), Dr. Todd Johnson (NYS USDA APHIS), George Cook (UVM Extension), Tim Bouton (Addison County Regional Planning Commission).  Front: Kate A. Q. Gieges (Cornwall), Phyllis Torrey (FSA), Susan Hommel (VT Dept. of Health), Lynn Wild (UVM Extension), Robin Greene (LEPC 7), Steve Johnson (FSA).  Not pictured: Ross Nagy (VEM), Kelly Nilsson (NYS Dept of Ag and Markets), Gabriel Palazzi (U.S. Dept. Homeland Security), Dr. Joel Russo (VT Agency Ag, Food & Markets), Andrea Hatch (VT Homeland Security).  Photo by UVM Extension Outreach Professional Louis Bedor III.

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