Kansas Communities Work To Prepare Farms, Other Ag Resources For Disasters

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Grain elevators. Cattle feedlots. Transport systems. Ideas about agricultural assets and vulnerabilities were flying as 22 Kansans spent two days at the Scott County Fairgrounds recently, working to better prepare their communities for natural and manmade disasters.

The group attended a two-day Strengthening Community AgroSecurity Planning (S-CAP) Workshop, sponsored by K-State Research and Extension and the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Teams from five western Kansas counties – Scott, Gray, Lane, Thomas and Logan – participated.

Similar workshops were held in Wichita and Liberal earlier in the year. Another is planned for Topeka Jan. 19-20, 2011.

The workshops bring together county emergency managers, animal health representatives, agricultural producers, law enforcement, public health professionals, agribusiness, extension agents and others to identify agricultural assets in counties and make sure they are addressed in county emergency plans.

The sessions are designed to build capacity to handle agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster, said Sandy Johnson, homeland security specialist with the Kansas Department of Agriculture. They also improve networking among stakeholders who can plan for and respond to emergencies, and help to develop community agrosecurity planning (CAP) teams that will establish or enhance agrosecurity components within existing local emergency operations plans.

“The fact that the (workshop) focus is on teambuilding is a great idea,” said Bill Taldo, Lane County Emergency Manager and workshop participant.

“Cattle feeding is a big industry out here,” said John Beckman, Scott County agriculture and natural resources agent, as he described agriculture in that area. Scott County also grows a variety of crops – both irrigated and dryland – all of which could be hit be any number of disasters, natural or manmade.

The workshops were developed by the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), a collaborative multi-state effort by Extension services across the country to improve the delivery of services to citizens affected by disasters. K-State is a member of EDEN.

At stake in Kansas is a wheat industry that in 2008 ranked No. 1 in the United States at 856 million bushels or 14.2 percent of U.S. wheat production, according to the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Kansas also ranked No. 1 in flour milled (32.8 million hundred weight), No. 1 in sorghum grain produced (214 million bushels) and No. 3 in cattle and calves on farms (6.3 million head) and cattle slaughtered (6.5 million head).

The threats to agriculture can be accidental, natural or intentional, said workshop presenter, Kara Mayer.

Mayer, who is an extension agent in Wabaunsee County, Kan., reminded workshop participants about the financial and emotional toll of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001.

“But it doesn’t take a big outbreak to have a huge economic impact,” she said, noting that the financial impact sparked by one cow confirmed to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington State, including beef export losses, ranged from $3.2 billion to $4.7 billion.

“Domestic cattle prices dropped 16 percent in the first week alone and some international trade restrictions still exist,” she said.

“We weren’t trained enough,” said Carmen Stauth, agriculture and natural resources agent in Kiowa County, Kan. as she spoke of the EF-5 tornado that hit Greensburg and other parts of Kiowa County in 2007. Stauth, who also serves as the county’s public information officer, said that bringing community teams together to work on preparedness is important to protect the citizens and assets of any community.

More information about the EDEN S-CAP project can be found online at http://www.eden.lsu.edu/s-cap. More information about emergency preparedness and disaster recovery resources available through K-State Research and Extension is available at http://www.kseden.ksu.edu.

By Mary Lou Peter, K-State Research and Extension



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