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MEDIA NEWSWIRE

Farmers needed to contribute to biosecurity plan

By Faith Peppers
University of Georgia

Georgia farmers can add their input on biosecurity issues to farmer opinions nationwide through a survey now being conducted.

The 40-state Extension Disaster Education Network received U.S. Department of Agriculture funds to identify farmers' educational needs on homeland security.

"Georgia farmers need to respond to the EDEN survey," Charles McPeake said, "to help present an accurate description of grassroots positioning and needs related to the homeland security issue."

McPeake is the agriculture and natural resources program leader with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

"This accumulation of information allows concerned organizations like Extension to provide more timely information for specific situations," he said.

November survey

The EDEN survey will be conducted through November. To take the survey, farmers may visit the EDEN Web site (www.agctr.lsu.edu/eden) and click on "Homeland Security Surveys," then on "Survey of Ag and Horticulture Producers."

The survey is anonymous. It takes less than 10 minutes to complete. Farmers can complete it anywhere they have access to the Web, including libraries and Extension offices.

"There are factors concerning agriculture that lead experts to disagree about whether farming and the food supply are at risk to bioterrorism," said Steve Cain, EDEN delegate and a Purdue University Extension Service specialist. "Whether or not there is a real threat to the American food supply, even the risks bring up issues that society must deal with."

Biosecurity issues

The EDEN project will help measure farmers' perceptions about biosecurity issues on the farm.

"Since September 11, the news media have done a credible job of providing information about homeland security," Cain said. "But often that information raises questions and debate that can only be addressed with educational programs."

The survey will help Extension staffs, nationally and in each state, know how to direct educational programs. Experts will use the information to make educational materials available to farmers.

"Georgia began focusing on biosecurity and agrosecurity when foot-and-mouth problems emerged in England," McPeake said. "Then along came 9/11, which threw our nation into the unknown."

To create awareness of these issues, UGA put together a CAES task force and agrosecurity conference. Materials can also be found on various Web sites.

(Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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