An official in the state’s Ag Department hopes the newly-appointed U.S. Homeland Security director rethinks how federal money for homeland security measures is spent. Jane Colacecchi of the Iowa Department of Agriculture says there’s been “almost insignificant” homeland security spending on agriculture, and there’s a push to divert even more from rural states like Iowa to bigger cities. She says federal officials need to redefine what they consider “critical assets.” She says until recently, the Homeland Security agency was focusing on “things that you could blow up.” Beyond bricks and mortar, Colacecchi says the feds need to focus on agricultural “systems” that produce, for example, corn and meat. “No single component of that system may be identified as a critical asset, but it’s a multi-billion dollar industry,” Colacecchi says. “So to us as a state it is a critical assets, but if you look at the guidelines in the federal funding, it doesn’t identify these ‘farm to fork’ systems as critical assets,” she says. Colacecchi is among those who are pushing federal officials to classify everything from a farm field to a grain warehouse as part of a corn production system that — with all its parts — is a “critical asset.” Colacecchi says another complication is that if there’s a terrorist strike on the food supply, it may not be immediately clear. “We’ll simply see disease symptoms and respond accordingly,” she says. “Unless somebody’s literally left a note, in nature it’s diffcult to tell if that’s been a terrorist event or a non-terrorist event, so for us, the response is exactly the same.” Colacecchi says there’s a need for training money to ensure there’s adequate coordination among agencies that would respond to an agricultural emergency — like an infectious livestock disease. At the state level, 11 different agencies would be involved and Colacecchi says at the local level, she “can’t even begin to count” the number of agencies that would have to be involved.
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