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Could U.S. Farms Be Targeted?

Could U.S. Farms Be Targeted?Though they provide much of the nation's food supply, U.S. farms are largely unguarded, making them a vulnerable target, says a Tufts expert.

No. Grafton, Mass. [10.23.01] As the nation continues to recover from the Sept. 11 attacks, federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are increasing security around anything that might be a possible target for terrorism. While much of the attention has focused on airports, skyscrapers government buildings and power plants, a Tufts expert says the nation's farmland should not be overlooked as a vulnerable target.

"If they really want to cripple our economy, that is a cheap way to do it," Tufts' Dr. George Saperstein told the Boston Herald.

Massachusetts alone, is responsible for over $300 million in agricultural exports, reported the Herald.

According to Saperstein -- an expert on livestock disease control at Tufts' School of Veterinary Medicine -- terrorists could use foot-and-mouth disease -- or something similar -- to attack U.S. farms without much difficulty.

"On Sept. 11, my second or third thought was there will be another wave, and my greatest fear was that it would be agri-terrorism because it would be so simple to do," he told the Herald.

Such an agri-terrorist attack could swiftly spread between farms, wiping out livestock and crops on a devastating scale.

But farmers and the government have already started taking precautions.

After foot-and-mouth disease spread through Europe, the U.S. spent $40 million to increase security measures at airports to prevent the disease from entering the U.S., reported the Herald.

And farmers are being encouraged to remain vigilant.

"U.S. agriculture officials say they have received no evidence of an agri-terrorist threat," reported the Herald. "But U.S. Department of Agriculture officials have been warning farmers and the food industry to be on alert for signs of strange plant or animal disease so they can be quickly isolated and treated."

If farmers detect any unusual ailments in their livestock - including unexplained death - Saperstein cautions that they should immediately contact their veterinarians for assistance.

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