Smith Leads USDA NIFA Coordinated Agricultural Project Protecting Animal Health

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Food security and economic security are vulnerable to the consequences of new, emerging, or trans-boundary animal diseases reaching the United States and spreading rapidly through food animal populations, triggering export market closures, and raising concerns about food safety. Preparing for such a disaster is a complex challenge. Because of human resistance to preparing for something that is not part of one’s individual experience or the collective experience of one’s social network, developing and maintaining protocols and policies effective at preventing the spread of disease is difficult. The USDA NIFA has awarded a Coordinated Agricultural Project grant to a multi-institutional multi-disciplinary team willing to take on this challenge by focusing on its human behavioral dimensions. The title of the project is “A human behavioral approach to reducing the impact of livestock pest or disease incursions of socio-economic importance.” Unofficially, we call it the Animal Disease Biosecurity Coordinated Agricultural Project (ADB CAP).

In our project proposal, we discuss a focus on biosecurity, but this term will be replaced by “animal health protection” in our outputs. We are employing a holistic approach to biological risk management in an effort to understand the overall vulnerabilities and to identify locations and practices of greatest likelihood of effectiveness and attractive benefit-to-cost estimates. Then attention can be focused on how to effect change at these points through appropriate communication strategies. Consistent with this approach, we consider the following questions: Q1. What are key determinants of behavior of stakeholders at critical control points regarding application of practices or protocols in dairy, beef, hog and small ruminant production to prevent incursions of pests and diseases? Q2. What messages (channels, sources) are most effective at getting stakeholders to “care” about potential incursions of pests and diseases of animals and their roles? Q3. What are workable solutions that enhance biosecurity? What is seen as practical and feasible at the level of any critical control point? What incentives are feasible and likely effective? Q4. What outreach tools, materials, games, assessments, and interactions result in measurable changes in attitudes and behaviors across cattle, hog and small ruminant production systems? As stated in our project logic model, our overall goal is for the activities and outputs of this project to facilitate the development and adoption of practices and policies that collectively reduce the impact of new, emerging and foreign pests and diseases to domestic production of cattle, swine and small ruminant foods and byproducts. The project expects funding to continue for a total of five years. Educational resources, “games”, and messages developed and tested during this project will be made available beyond the end of the funding period.

A summary of the project and brief biographies of the team members can be found here: ADBCAP Newsletter Issue 1.

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This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2015-69004-23273. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.