Iowa Ag Secretary Patty Judge has created a “Center for Agriculture Security” within the Iowa Department of Agriculture. “We now know and we’ve all heard people in Washington, D.C. talk about perhaps the vulnerability of the agricultural products,” Judge says. “We are trying to take steps here to make certain that we are doing everything we can in case of an emergency and I would add, in the unlikely event of an emergency.” Judge has rearranged some furniture and renovated office space to accommodate a staff of two who have been working on ag security issues. She says the idea is to run any emergency response to an act of agroterrorism out of that new office, and bring people, like vets, in to the office area for training sessions. Judge rejects the criticism that her agency hasn’t responded quickly enough to the threat of agroterrorism that became a greater fear after the attacks of September 11th. “Wheels turn slowly in goverment,” Judge says. “It has taken the federal government quite a while to understand how to respond.” Judge’s agency held a statewide training exercise two years ago, simulating a livestock health emergency. In the past year, Judge’s staff has staged seven “agrovillage” seminars around the state to bring vets, farmers and fire responders like police and fire fighters together to talk about agroterrorism. “We have not been idle at all,” Judge says. “Sometimes I think the time we have devoted to this issue is almost more than we have to devote to it.” The state Ag Department employees will work with officials from the stte Emergency Management division as well as other state agencies, like the Department of Natural Resources, if there were to be an act of bio-terror striking the Midwest’s food system. Judge says Georgia is the only other state that has taken such a step to pool government resources in one center “I’m really very proud of this concept and of what we’ve been able to accomplish today,” Judge says. Judge, a Democrat, announced last month that she will not run for re-election and will instead run for governor in 2006.
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