County agriculture emergency workshop provides valuable information
When Saline Countians think of emergencies, tornadoes or fires normally come to mind. However, on June 13, 2011, a small group of veterinarians, farmers and emergency preparedness coordinators worked on a plan in case of a widespread foreign disease outbreak on area farms.
"When we are finished today the plan is probably 90 percent done, so this was a tremendous tool for us," said Russ Donnell, assistant emergency management director for Saline County. "The information I gleaned here today is invaluable."
The workshop, held in the basement of the Saline County Public Health Office, was presented by Bryan L. Deimeke, an associate consultant of SES, Inc.
Contracted by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, the private company presented informational seminars in all 114 Missouri counties since 2005. Now, they are focusing on planning workshops and have covered approximately 20 Missouri counties.
During the session, Deimeke explained threats to U.S. farms from disease outbreaks, including those caused by agro-terrorism.
Much of the discussion centered around Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), which is considered to be one of the most economically significant livestock diseases.
"The worst of the worst," Deimeke said.
An airborne disease, FMD is not a threat to humans but spreads quickly in cloven-hoofed animals, including cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, deer, bison, pronghorn antelope and feral swine.
The disease has not been found in the United States since 1929, but it is still prevalent in other countries, including Africa, South America, Asia and parts of Europe.
In Great Britain, a widespread outbreak in 2001 spread across Britain quickly. Almost six million animals were culled, costing more than $15 billion in losses to agriculture and tourism.
Deimeke said only World War II had a greater economic impact to that part of the world than the 2001 outbreak.
"We are looking at a livestock disease that has world war ramifications," he said.
In contrast, because of prior planning, a 2007 outbreak in Great Britain was limited to just two farms and 200 cows. The difference was a response time of three hours to stop movement of livestock. In 2001, movement of livestock continued for three days before being halted.
Deimeke emphasized the importance of bio-security on farms, as well as the importance of reporting potential problems.
"It's vitally important for a producer to say something. It's vitally important for veterinarians to say something," he said.
Besides learning more about various diseases, participants in the six hour session, went through a simulated FMD outbreak and a scenario of a fictional animal disease outbreak.
Participants provided Deimeke with phone numbers of area veterinarians, livestock producers, law enforcement officials and others who could help if an agriculture agro-terrorist event or disease outbreak were to occur in the county. They also identified areas where animals could be taken in case a control order was issued suspending movement of cloven-hoofed animals, as well as possible places to bury destroyed animals.
Deimeke will type up a plan based on information from the workshop and Donnell said he and Saline County Presiding Comissioner Tom Stallings, who is the county emergency preparedness director, will review the plan.
"We'll make whatever changes we feel we need to make and we'll present it to the county commissioners," said Donnell. "They will either make recommendations or they will accept it and we will include it in the emergency operations plan. Then we will share with all the municipalities."
Donnell said his goal was to prepare a uniform county-wide plan.
"If everybody has the same plan, our response is much simpler," he said.
He and Stallings both said the session, which was free to the county, provided excellent information.
"They took something that would have taken us weeks to get done and we got it done in six hours," Donnell said.