When cows wouldn’t drink from their favorite waterer at the end of a free-stall barn, the work crew investigated and found broken glass and product labels resting at the bottom of the receptacle — an obvious case of sabotage. “We know Polyflex (antibiotic) was brought onto the farm by somebody and smashed into the waterers,” says Kent Miller, of Plato Brook Farm in Arcade, N.Y.


Farms and processing plants in Kansas have been using this AGROGUARD sign. A similar concept might be used in other states.

Plato Brook was not alone. Fifteen to 20 other farms in western New York state were hit as well during the spring of 2002. Under the cover of night, saboteurs sneaked in and dumped antibiotics into waterers or milk-storage tanks, and even injected cows. 

State police never found the culprits. But the cases did create a heightened sense of awareness. The farms knew that if they were to deter future cases of sabotage, they would have to become more vigilant.

Here are some things you can do to keep from falling victim to sabotage or agroterrorism.

Be vigilant
After one of its water tanks was sabotaged, Plato Brook managers met with employees and instructed them to call farm management or the police upon seeing any suspicious activity — even if it were to occur in the middle of the night.

Surveillance cameras can only cover so much ground, so the job of spotting suspicious activity often rests squarely on the shoulders of employees and farm managers. (Plato Brook had surveillance cameras set up prior to the water-tank incident, but those cameras could not see into the area where the sabotage occurred.)   

“Probably the most potent defense a dairy can have is an informed workforce that has its eyes and ears open to any mischief on the dairy, or any diseased animals, and to note them and to report them as early as possible,” says Jerry Gillespie, director of the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California-Davis.

If there was a common theme expressed at the FBI’s International Symposium on Agroterrorism this past May in Kansas City, it was to stay vigilant and report suspicious activity to law-enforcement authorities. The more coordinated and organized the effort, the better.

A good example is the AGROGUARD program. A collaborative effort of law enforcement, industry and academia, AGROGUARD is similar to a neighborhood-watch program. Producers and food processors in Kansas post signs proclaiming, “We report all suspicious activity.” Phone numbers for reporting suspicious behavior are included on the signs. 

James Lane, under-sheriff for the Ford County (Kan.) Sheriff’s Department, says the AGROGUARD signs serve as a deterrent. They also raise awareness among producers, the general public and law-enforcement officers regarding the possibility of an agroterrorist attack.  

To learn more about AGROGUARD, call Lane at (620) 227-4590 or e-mail him at jlane@fordcounty.net.

Make sure you provide your family and employees with a list of emergency-contact phone numbers. Post this list in a prominent place.


This warning sign was developed by Dairy Farmers of America for its members. It carries the message in both English and Spanish.

Limit access
Researchers at Stanford University recently released a report detailing the vulnerabilities of the nation’s milk supply
to terrorist attack. According to the report, terrorists might deliberately release botulism toxin into a bulk tank at a dairy farm, a tanker truck transporting milk from a farm to a processing plant, or a raw-milk silo at a processing facility.

There’s little you can do to prevent this from happening once the milk leaves your farm. But you can control at least one of the critical access points -— the  bulk tanks.

It’s a good idea to lock the bulk-tank area, says Gillespie. The only people who should be there are employees with business to conduct, such as cleaning, he adds. 

“One strategy that we are researching (at the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security) is the issue of putting card locks” on the doors of milk-storage areas, Gillespie says. That would require employees to use swipe cards to gain entry, which, in turn, would provide dairy owners with a record of who is going in and out, and at what times.

Gillespie says the idea of limiting access to people on farm is a very complex one. There needs to a certain amount of people coming and going simply to conduct normal business.

Here is a compilation of advice from various farm-security experts:

  • Lock the milk-storage area.  
  • Keep an up-to-date inventory of hazardous materials.
  • Provide outside lighting around buildings.  
  • Monitor your visitors and keep a log of who has been on your farm. 
  • Secure facility boundaries. Use fencing to limit entry points. Post “no trespassing” signs.

“Your farm should not be a public thoroughfare anymore — those days are gone,” Rich Gale, former antiterrorism trainer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told those attending a Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin seminar in 2003.

Involve employees

Some experts suggest doing an extensive background check on employees. While that may be a valid strategy in the white-collar or manufacturing industries, it isn’t always practical on dairy farms. Often times, dairy employees don’t have well-documented work histories or reference checks.

Gillespie says an alternative strategy is to involve workers and enlist their aid in looking for suspicious activity. “Get them invested in assuring a safe product,” he says. “Most of them are going to be loyal employees, and they can help you screen (for problems).”

The more eyes you have on the problem, the better your chances of avoiding an agroterrorist attack.


Information source: Updated information on agricultural security can be found at the following Web site: www.ag-security.com