America's breadbasket faces the same risk for terrorist attacks as do major urban areas, say top agricultural government and industry officials.

U.S. agriculture makes up one-sixth of the nation's gross domestic product and one in eight Americans are employed in the industry, says Peter Chalk, policy analyst for Rand Corp. in Arlington, Va.

Addressing a Midwest governors’ summit on agroterrorism, Chalk said because of ag’s high value to the economy and its vulnerability it becomes a likely terrorist target. It may not be a primary or first strike target but it definitely is a “very viable secondary target.”

Despite additional safety precautions launched since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, much more needs to be done in order for the U.S. to respond effectively if there is another attack.

According to Jim Moseley, deputy secretary at the USDA, the Sept. 11 attacks demonstrated the need for a more focused approach. While much has been done to get better prepared, he remains concerned about ongoing threats, particularly to the U.S. food system.

Communication between government agencies and between state and federal agencies is crucial.
In the past, communication has not always been shared. But to go forward with a strong plan of action, communication must be a cornerstone of it, said Moseley, an Indiana farmer and former congressman.

"The threats are real . . . 9/11 was not the end. 9/11 was the beginning," Moseley told attendees. "There is an enemy out there that would seek to undo our way of life." New attacks won't occur in the same way. "It'll be a different mechanism and a different approach, but it's going to happen again," he said.

Des Moines Register