Region 8 Farmers May Be Joining the Fight Against Terrorism

October 28, 2003 - Posted at 4:45 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, AR - Farmers in Region 8 could soon find themselves as defenders of homeland security.  It may sound a bit far fetched, but, then again, maybe not...

It's being called 'agri-terrorism'...the threat or possibility of crops or livestock being tampered with by bio-terrorists before the products become a food source for the public.  Craighead County Extension Agent Steve Culp says the agri industry is already considering the possibility.  "We've had some meetings on bio-security relating to agriculture, and then also here in the county with the local coordinator, and certainly it's something that we're aware of," said Culp.

The dean of the University of Tennessee's Agriculture Department says farming would be an easy target because of the way food is produced and distributed.  Michael Blackwell says agri-terrorism has been somewhat overlooked by the nation's leaders because they're based in large urban areas.

K8 News caught up to Craighead County farmer Kevin Hoke as he harvested cotton east of Jonesboro Tuesday afternoon.  "We can't put a fence around these fields and we can't watch them 24 hours a day," said Hoke.  Hoke says he understands the concerns of such threats, but doesn't lie awake at night worrying about bio-terror threats to his farm, or others.  "What we do have to remember is that the United States has the most safe and abundant food supply in the world, and we are heavily regulated from the government already," said Hoke.

Thoughts more or less echoed by Culp..."I just don't think it's a real high priority in terms of a threat.  Again, anything can happen, but it's not as high as maybe some other things."

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)