FBI watching agriculture industry for bioattack

Federal and local authorities have said that they are keeping an eye on vulnerabilities in Nebraska’s agricultural industry in their efforts to prevent a potential biological terrorist attack.

The FBI is actively watching Nebraska farmland and farm operations, according to KETV.com.

Omaha FBI Assistant Special Agent Jim Langenberg said that there is no immediate threat, but that an attack could potentially cause devastating losses.

“We know that Osama bin Laden has looked into our agriculture industry, seen its vulnerabilities and seen what the economic loss could be," Langenberg said, according to KETV.com.

Agricultural production in Iowa and Nebraska is thought to be worth $42 billion and the FBI believes that, while Nebraska and Iowa are a long way from the global fight on terror, a pathogen introduced into a feed lot or on crop land could wreak havoc.

Rules on farm land are becoming strict to prevent an attack. To prevent disease and ensure security, visitors to Waldo Farms outside DeWitt must go through a shower and suit up in sterilized coveralls, KETV.com reports. The facilities themselves are power washed and deep-treated. Buyers can only shop through windows and new coveralls and plastic show covers are a requirement.

Every pig is identified by notches on its ears and its blood tests and medical records are tracked wherever they go. All of the farm’s 13 buildings are listed on a national database and each building is locked and surveyed several times a day.

"So that if we do ever have a challenge, we can locate that challenge, we can isolate it, take care of it and move on," Troy McCain, the farm’s owner, told KETV.com.

The FBI said all of these measures are to be used to stop an attack using a biological agent that may take days to uncover.

"It's not something that's going to be brief, dynamic and aggressive, or over within minutes or hours," Langenberg said, KETV.com reports. "An attack on the agriculture industry could take days or weeks to percolate. We have a terrorism incident on our hand."

The FBI sponsors regular meetings, including an international symposium on agro-terror set for next year in Kansas City, but such meetings can only go so far. Growers, researchers and law enforcement are certain that they will have to always be looking for ways to neutralize any potential attack.