Do agricultural producers think a bioterrorist attack might strike water, livestock, crops or the U.S. food supply? How can they prepare for or respond to such incidents?

Through November, a Web-based survey will ask producers across the country for their opinions on such biosecurity and agroterrorism topics.

“Because of 9/11 we now have a couple of new ominous words in our vocabulary — biosecurity and agroterrorism,” LSU AgCenter Chancellor William B. Richardson says. “So we in the LSU AgCenter, like many land-grant universities across the country, are trying to develop recommendations for farmers as well as procedures to follow at our own research stations and laboratories.”

Experts say the ongoing surveys are designed to gather information from farmers that can help in developing such recommendations and delivering educational services to them.

The survey is being conducted by the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN) and is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which partners with land-grant universities across the country in the nationwide Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service.

The survey funding is part of overall efforts to supply homeland security education for farm and non-farm industries and individuals, and the producer survey results will guide what types of educational programs should be offered on agricultural biosecurity.

To take the survey, producers may visit the EDEN Web site at www.agctr.lsu.edu/eden and click on “Homeland Security Surveys,” then click on “Survey of Ag and Horticulture Producers.” The survey is anonymous and takes less than 10 minutes to complete. It can be completed anywhere producers have access to the World Wide Web, including libraries and Extension Service offices.

“There are factors concerning agriculture that lead experts to disagree about whether or not farming and the food supply are at risk to bioterrorism,” says Steve Cain, an EDEN delegate and Purdue University Extension specialist. “Whether or not there is a real threat to the American food supply, even the perceived risk brings up issues that society must deal with.”

The EDEN project will help measure agricultural producers' perceptions about biosecurity issues on the farm.

“Since Sept. 11 (2001), the news media have done a credible job of providing information about homeland security,” says Cain. “But often that information raises questions and debate that can only be addressed with educational programs.”

This producer survey will help Extension staff, nationally and in each state, determine what direction educational programs should take. EDEN specialists will use the information to identify educational materials and make them available to producers.