The US food supply “is among the most vulnerable and least protected of all potential targets for terrorism,” according to a study prepared for the National Institute of Justice by researchers and law enforcement officials around the country.
A copy of the research paper was supplied by Nevil Speer, associate professor of agricultural economics at Western Kentucky University.
The voluminous report said the consequences of an intentional attack on US livestock with a foreign animal disease like Foot-and-Mouth Disease would bring mass slaughter and funeral pyres for the exterminated livestock, extreme financial losses and even terror.
The last US case of FMD was in 1929 in Montebello, Cal., in hogs that had eaten infected meat scraps.
The study said one agricultural economist had estimated that a nationwide outbreak of FMD would result in immediate stoppage of the beef industry, which could cost $750,000 to $1.0 million a minute for each operating business hour.
“The result would to too overwhelming for the livestock industry to absorb and would stagger the US economy,” the report said.
LIVESTOCK A “SOFT TARGET”
With its exposed fields, farms and feedlots, the US livestock industry is considered a “soft” target in military terms, the report said. Intelligence reports from the spring of 2005 indicated al-Qaeda operatives were considering attacks at many unspecified soft targets like restaurants, movie theaters and schools.
Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Foreign Intelligence Committee, warned in 2005 of the possible threat to US agriculture.
“We know that several of the Sep. 11 hijackers had agriculture training and that it would be very easy to attack our unprotected feedlots and wide open croplands,” Roberts was quoted as saying.
FMD A PRIMARY THREAT
When considering agroterrorism, agricultural experts were unanimous in their assessment that FMD is the most lethal weapon.
The virulence of FMD cannot be overstated. It attacks cloven-hooved animals like cattle, sheep, swine, deer, elk and goats, and is regarded as the most contagious virus known to man. It is 20 times more infectious than smallpox and has up to a 50-mile airborne transmission capability from animal to animal.
FMD results in vesicles on the tongue, hooves and teats, causing painful blisters. The affected animal is unable to walk, eat, drink, nurse or be milked.
“It is an understatement to say that an outbreak of FMD would tax law enforcement resources,” the report said.
LAW ENFORCEMENT’S ROLE
Law enforcement’s first priority would be to establish and enforce a strict six-mile quarantine area around the infected premise, the report said. No vehicles, equipment or persons would be allowed to enter or leave this area without detailed decontamination and authorization.
An estimated 40 roadblocks would be required to secure an entire quarantine area, the report said.
Inside the quarantine area, an “exposed zone” would be established in which all cloven-hooved animals would be destroyed, they said.
In addition, all movement within an entire state would have to stop until given permission.
CATTLE, BEEF RECAP
No fed cattle sold Wednesday on the Livestock Exchange video auction. Cash cattle traded Friday at $121 to mostly $122 per cwt on a live basis, down $1 from the previous week and at $195 dressed, steady to up $2.
The USDA’s choice cutout Friday was up $0.84 per cwt at $209.51, while select was up $1.46 at $202.32. The choice/select spread narrowed to $7.19 from $7.81 with 67 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.
The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Thursday was $155.20 per cwt, down $0.40. This compares with Friday’s Jan settlement of $146.62, down $2.40.