Touring Wisconsin Dairyland

EDEN’s annual meeting didn’t officially begin until the opening reception Tuesday evening, but those of us who arrived in time to join the October 8th tour got an early taste of what was to come. Cheryl Skjolaas, meeting host, arranged three stops that highlighted two important Wisconsin economic drivers: agriculture and tourism.

Cheryl Skjolaas introduces Justin Pope of Foremost Farms
Cheryl Skjolaas introduces Justin Pope of Foremost Farms.
First stop was Foremost Farms in Baraboo. This is a farmer-owned milk processing and marketing cooperative with nearly 2,000 member-owners located in the upper Midwest. Justin Pope, director of environmental health, safety and sustainability, shared lessons learned from real events and exercises. Processing plants can be affected by contamination, disease outbreak, or physical catastrophes. Like many other businesses, Foremost Farms has developed a continuity of operations plan–and has had to implement it on more than one occasion. A highlight of the presentation was discussion of their enterprise-wide exercise of response to discovery of Foot and Mouth Disease in the state.

We also visited a milk producer, the New Chester Dairy. The  facility has 8,600 cows and operates two rotary parlors, milking approximately 8,000 cows three times a day. All cows are housed on premise in climate-moderated, covered barns and fed feed mix created on site. It was fascinating. While not every state has a large dairy industry, all of us can appreciate the need for biosecurity and farm facility security–poor sanitation, disease, theft, and other problems have a direct impact on the economic welfare of the operation.

EDEN tour group at New Chester Dairy in front of milk transport trucks.
EDEN tour group at New Chester Dairy in front of milk transport trucks.


Meg Galloway, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, describes the 2008 Lake Delton washout and subsequent reparation.
Meg Galloway, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, describes the 2008 Lake Delton washout and subsequent reparation.

Sandwiched between dairy stops was a visit with Meg Galloway (Chief, Dams and Floodplain Management Section, Bureau of Watershed Management, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources). She met us on Lake Delton‘s earthen dam. As chief, she was responsible for coordinating break reparation after a road embankment washed out on June 8, 2008. Most of the 267-acre lake drained in two hours. Lake Delton was formed in 1927 to attract tourists to the Wisconsin Dells area. It was very successful and has been a key tourism destination ever since. Repairing the 400-foot break, which also took out a section of County Highway A, was a huge task.The repair proceeded hastily because it was tied to the highway reconstruction and was a priority for the area tourism. The lake resort was able to reopen just one year later.

The tone was set. We returned to the University of Wisconsin Pyle Center in time for our opening reception and kickoff to the 2013 EDEN Annual Meeting.

Next week we’ll highlight a few of the meeting sessions.


EDEN Agrosecurity Symposium: Building National Networks and Partnerships

Rick and SCaP Symposium General SessionWritten by Andrea Higdon and Chelsey Pickens

On April 22 – 23, 2013, EDEN hosted its first Agrosecurity Symposium: Building National Networks and Partnerships in Washington, DC.  Stakeholders from federal, tribal, state, and local entities attended the 1.5 day meeting to identify challenges and develop strategies to address emergency and disaster preparedness issues facing the food and agriculture sector.  The Symposium webpage provides a detailed agenda and outcomes report of the meeting.

The first day of the Symposium began with Mark Robinson, USDA National Program Leader for Animal Agrosecurity, setting the stage with key examples of the need for a national agrosecurity preparedness system that can be applied at the local level all the way up to the federal level.  Then, Eric Runnels (Branch Chief of Policy and Doctrine Coordination Branch, Federal Emergency Management Agency), Jessica Pulz (Chief, Resilience and Preparedness Division, United States Department of Agriculture), and Doug Meckes (Branch Chief for Food, Agriculture, and Veterinary Defense Branch, Department of Homeland Security), outlined federal agrosecurity initiatives to serve as the foundation for discussions later in the day.  Steve Cain (National EDEN Homeland Security Project Director, Purdue University) and Andrea Higdon (Emergency Management System Director, College of Agriculture, University of Kentucky) described EDEN’s role in agricultural emergency and disaster preparedness.  Tom Tucker (Director, National Center for Biomedical Research and Training [NCBRT]) discussed the partnership between EDEN and NCBRT and potential future activities.  During lunch, Ron Walton (National Coordinator for Agriculture and Resource/Emergency Support Function #11:  Agriculture and Natural Resources, United States Department of Agriculture) relayed the evolution of ESF #11 and proposed revisions to it.

SCAP Symposium breakoutgroup 2013aPanel presentations provided an opportunity for local and state agrosecurity professionals (Sandy Johnson, Emergency Management Coordinator, Kansas Department of Agriculture; Jeanne Rankin, Agro-Emergency Projects Coordinator, Montana State University; Kim Cassel, Professor, South Dakota State University; Curt Emanuel, Extension Educator, Purdue University) to present lessons learned from disasters, programming opportunities, and valuable resources.  Billy Dictson (Director of the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center, retired) gave insight on critical agriculture infrastructure challenges.  The remainder of the Symposium focused on small intra- and inter-agency working groups collaborating to analyze existing agrosecurity needs and formulate strategies to mitigate them.  Moderator Rick Atterberry (EDEN Chair, Media Communications Specialist, University of Illinois) provided continuity throughout the program and guided plenary discussions.

As the Symposium concluded, Moderator Rick Atterberry commented, “the Symposium served as a linchpin for bringing together stakeholders to discuss how federal agrosecurity initiatives can be translated to state and local levels.”  Using the whole community to address agrosecurity initiatives from the local up to the state, tribal, and federal levels provides an avenue for synchronous preparedness in the food and agriculture sector.

A detailed description of the challenges and strategies the working groups identified during the Symposium can be found online at:

Agroterrorism in the News

The November 29, 2012 BBC article “Canadian ‘eco-terrorist’ surrenders in the US” is another example that indicates the agriculture and natural resources industry is at risk of terrorism. Although the BBC reported it as an “eco terrorist,” the accused actions of Rebecca Jeanette Rubin fit the definition of agroterrorism. Rubin is accused of being part of a group linked to arson attacks in the western U.S. from 1996 to 2001.

“The damage to the targets, including forest ranger stations and meat processing plants, ran to more than $40m (£25m).”

Agroterrorism is a relatively new term that was evolving before the September 11, 2001 attacks that focused the American public’s attention toward terrorism.  There are many definitions of agroterrorism, but all generally revolve around this idea from a University of Florida Extension publication:  “Agroterrorism is the deliberate introduction of detrimental agents, biological and otherwise, into the agricultural and food processing system with the intent of causing actual or perceived harm.”

In this view the attacks on ranger stations and meat processing plants fit the definition of an agroterrorism event.

Since 9-11, a great deal has been done to understand, plan for, and respond to potential agroterrorism attacks. The Food and Ag Defense Initiative is a program of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. This program provides support for the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) to identify and respond to high risk biological pathogens in the food and agricultural system. The network is used to increase the ability to protect the nation from disease threats by identifying, containing, and minimizing disease threats. The funds also are used to support the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).

to address local emergency management planning for the food and agriculture sector, EDEN developed a program that has been delivered in more than 20 states called Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Preparedness (S-CAP). This unique training brings together multi-disciplinary teams of local agricultural emergency planning stakeholders to increase capacities within communities to address agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster. To find out more on S-CAP, visit the project’s page on the EDEN website.

– post written by Steve Cain, Purdue University Extension