PROTECTING THE security of the state's food and water supply is gaining more attention, and the LSU AgCenter and others are hosting a conference aimed at developing policies that serve as safeguards.

Members of the state's agricultural community and government officials have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of terrorist attacks, as well as the ever-present likelihood of the accidental introduction of damaging diseases or other pests into Louisiana's food production system.

In response, the LSU AgCenter and several cosponsors are hosting the Louisiana Food and Agricultural Biosecurity: Producer Awareness Conference at LSU-Alexandria's Brumfield-Caffey Annex on Oct. 30.

Paul Coreil, LSU AgCenter vice chancellor, said the conference is intended to help Louisiana farmers and ranchers become more aware of the problems that could arise from the introduction of plant or animal diseases or pests into their operations.

The LSU AgCenter vice chancellor said the conference will involve information on identifying the diagnostic capacity needed to protect the food supply and identifying how a food-linked terrorism attack would affect Louisiana's food industry. Coreil said the meeting also will address actions needed to reduce food contamination risks, development of an action plan in the event of food-related problems and the need for statewide education and outreach related to these issues.

Conference organizers said they expect the audience to include agricultural commodity group leaders, consultants, suppliers and veterinarians, as well as crop and livestock producers and others interested in these topics.

The conference will provide a forum for participants to interact and exchange ideas with leading biosecurity and agrosecurity experts and key policymakers from Louisiana and the nation.

Anyone planning to attend is encouraged to register before the meeting date to insure enough conference materials and meals are on hand, said Carrie Borel, one of the organizers with the LSU AgCenter.

Online registration and a tentative program are accessible on the LSU AgCenter Homeland Security Website at: www.lsuagcenter.com/homelandsecurity/bioconf.