Reducing the Impact of Disasters Through Education
State Information

Safeguarding U.S. Critical Infrastructure through Extension Outreach: Community Agrosecurity Planning

Andrea Husband, University of Kentucky, and Ricky Yeargan, University of Kentucky

Local agrosecurity planning is a priority for educational programming and research.  Agriculture is a key component of the nation’s critical infrastructure and is highly vulnerable to potential attacks.  Assuring the protection of local agriculture is essential to maintaining the safety and security of the food supply at the national and global levels.   To address this need, Extension can play an important role in using research-based concepts to assist local emergency managers with their agricultural protection efforts. 

Agriculture as Critical Infrastructure

Because of U.S. agriculture’s breadth, importance and vulnerability, it is defined as one of the nation’s critical infrastructures in Executive Order 13228 Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council (2001); National Strategy for Homeland Security (Bush, 2002); National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets (Bush, 2003); Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD)-7 Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection (U.S. Department of Homeland Security [DHS], 2003); HSPD-9 Defense of United States Agriculture and Food (DHS, 2004); et al.  One reason agriculture is so important is because it is a driving force behind the nation’s economy and jobs.  The U.S. is home to approximately 1,912,000 farms and 87,000 food-processing plants (Bush, 2003).  According to Bruce I. Knight, Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs, Homeland Security Defense Council, “the nation’s food and fiber system contributed at least $1.25 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2006.  In addition, roughly 16 percent of Americans work in the broad sector of food and fiber” (U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], 2008, para. 2). 

The vulnerability of U.S. agriculture is not only affected by its magnitude, but also because it is typically regarded as a “soft” target and is a known vulnerability to Al Qaeda operatives, as evidenced by documents found in a raid of their caves in Afghanistan in 2002:

Hundreds of pages of U.S. agricultural documents recovered from the al Qaeda caves in Afghanistan early last year are a strong indication that terrorists recognize that our agriculture and food industry provides tempting targets. The industry’s size, scope, and productivity, combined with our lack of preparedness, offer a great many points of attack. Al Qaeda’s interest in agriculture is not limited to studying documents. These killers have practical, hands-on knowledge. A CIA report released in May confirmed that the September 11 hijackers expressed interest in crop dusting aircraft, an effective and remarkably simple way to spread biological agents, including plant and animal diseases, over large areas. We have also learned from the CIA that Osama bin Laden himself has considerable knowledge of agriculture. He controlled sunflower and corn markets in the Sudan in the mid-1990’s and may have used his farms to train terrorist operatives.   (Agroterrorism, 2003)

Agricultural incidents, whether resulting from an intentional, accidental, or natural origin, can cause significant negative impacts on the economy and human and animal health as shown by incidents in recent history:

  • thousands of individuals sickened per incident such as the Salmonella saintpaul outbreak in jalapenos in 2008 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2008);
  • impacted millions of acres per season such as the gypsy moth infestation over the last century (USDA, 2003);
  • cost tens of millions of dollars such as the emerald ash borer infestation (USDA, n.d.) to billions of dollars such as the introduction of soybean rust (USDA, 2006);
  • caused millions of animal deaths such as the foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the United Kingdom in 2001 (Public Safety Canada, 2006);
  • lost billions of dollars in export losses such as the identification of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in a single cow in Washington state in 2002 (Coffey, Mintert, Fox, Schroeder, & Valentin, 2005); and
  • resulted in many states being affected despite originating in one small locale such as the E. coli outbreak in spinach in 2006 (CDC, 2006).

Animal populations at risk represent economic and psychological vulnerabilities.  For example, over one-third of households in the U.S. own dogs and/or cats, along with countless other companion species (American Veterinary Medical Association, 2007).  Many states, in an attempt to comply with the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act (2006), have assigned small animal sheltering/evacuation activities to agricultural agencies, resulting in a need to identify how to address this new responsibility.  Agriculture is a critical infrastructure that can have sweeping effects and greater attention should be focused on the importance of protecting the key assets involved in the food and fiber sector. 

Protecting Agriculture through Local Emegency Planning Efforts

Emergency planning and implementation efforts begin at the local level and are supported by state, regional, and federal activities (Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA], 2009).  By planning effectively for agricultural emergencies and disasters at the local level, communities can reduce the associated economic, social, and infrastructure costs.  Through identification of the most effective emergency planning methodologies, local emergency planners can incorporate best practices into their local planning efforts and mitigate unnecessary and unwanted consequences. 

Building upon current federal and local approaches and through examination of the available research, various types of planning policy alternatives may be adopted by jurisdictions during local emergency operations plan development, including the incorporation of capability-based planning to augment current planning efforts.  Although capability-based planning has been in use since the 1960’s, its widespread acceptance was limited until the early twenty-first century (Fitzsimmons, 2007). 

Emergency planning was originally threat-based and jurisdictions would plan operations to address fires, storms, etc.  However planners eventually realized many threats require the same capabilities for emergency management.  For example, transportation accidents involving large animals may require the capabilities of rescue, shelter, disposal, and euthanasia.  Tornadoes may also require rescue, shelter, disposal, and euthanasia.  When planners develop a plan based solely on threats, the same capabilities are being addressed over and over.  Rescue, shelter, disposal, and euthanasia capabilities are not likely to be substantially different regardless of the threat.  However, if planners examine the capabilities they are able to deploy regardless of the threat, they are more likely to be able to address a wider range of hazards, particularly when not every type of disaster can be anticipated (FEMA, 2009). 

When local emergency operations plans are based on capabilities, the jurisdiction will be better prepared to address all types of threats.  For instance, disposal is a required capability for most types of threats including: transportation accidents, foreign animal diseases, windstorms, floods, wildfires, and incidents involving weapons of mass destruction (e.g., CBRNE agents – or chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive/incendiary agents).  Therefore, if a disposal capability is developed, especially one robust enough to address the highest potential mortalities (i.e., a foreign animal disease), the jurisdiction would be prepared to address most known threats.

Reinforcing the importance of capability-based planning, research by Quarantelli (1988) found disaster plans should focus on general needs, rather than on agent-specific threats.  For example, regardless of the type of incident (e.g., flood or earthquake), the same type of warnings will be required to communicate with the jurisdiction’s residents about the emergency.  Quarantelli (1988) also notes the difficulties of trying to address every possible eventuality. 

Local emergency operations plans should be as generic as possible, providing flexibility to address unknown incidents that may occur.  Identification of required capabilities is needed to safeguard the community from the evolving nature of various hazards (Godson & Schultz, 2010).  Capabilities-based planning is a framework that addresses a wide range of threats (Walker, 2005).  This flexible framework can be beneficial during difficult economic times to provide criteria for expenditures on disaster planning activities (Davis, n.d.). 

Capability-based planning can also prevent identification of solutions too early in the plan development process (Technical Cooperation Program Joint Systems and Analysis Group Technical Panel, n.d.).  The benefit of slowing the plan development process is to allow time for identification of new alternatives to address potential vulnerabilities. 

Most research recognizes a process-oriented approach used in emergency operations plan development can enhance planning efforts.  By not solely concentrating on specific threats to the community, planners can address all hazards – even future unknown eventualities.   The methodology-based approach of using capability-based planning to supplement other planning approaches can result in an improved local emergency operations plan, represented by an effective plan and measurable results reflected in research studies (Boal & Bryson, 1987).

Extension's Role in Community Agrosecurity Planning

Extension can play a vital role in local agrosecurity planning efforts through their invaluable ties to stakeholders in the community, close relationships with local government officials, and their dedication to serve communities across the nation.  Extension Administration can play a role through encouraging field personnel to participate in National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command System training, dialogue with local emergency managers, and enhance communications with USDA sister agencies responsible for local emergency committee activities.  These activities can be pursued at a low cost at the state level.

Communities can also take advantage of the educational programs offered by the Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN), such as the Strengthening Community Agrosecurity Planning (S-CAP) workshops.  The workshops enable community partners to build capacity to handle agricultural issues during an emergency or disaster, improve networking among stakeholders who can plan for and respond to emergencies, and develop community agrosecurity planning teams to establish or enhance agrosecurity components within existing local emergency operations plans (EDEN, 2010).  Facilitators use a research-based approach to help participants from individual communities work together as multi-agency teams to examine the issues relevant to their specific agricultural vulnerabilities.  Because good planning is achieved through adaptive preparations (i.e., capabilities-based planning) that can be applied to any situation (Kartez & Lindell, 1987), the workshop utilizes a capabilities-based planning approach to incorporate agricultural issues into local emergency operations plans, critical local agricultural infrastructure assets are identified and prioritized, and threats to the farm-to-fork continuum are defined.  Lastly, because proper disaster planning requires anticipating what is likely to happen (Quarantelli, 1997), community agricultural vulnerabilities are identified.

Multiple activities throughout the S-CAP workshops enable participants to begin construction of an agricultural component (e.g., Emergency Support Function [ESF] #11 Agriculture and Natural Resources) of their emergency operations plan, standard operating guidelines, and an emergency resource list.  This procedure coordinates with efforts currently underway across the country to crosswalk the local emergency annexes and appendices to an ESF format to complement the National Preparedness Guidelines (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2007), National Response Framework (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008b), and work within the NIMS (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2008a).  The method for developing ESF #11 taught during the workshop is adaptable for other components of the local emergency operations plan, because capability-based planning addresses a wide variety of threats for a future that cannot be predicted (Walker, 2005).  The process-oriented approach (i.e., capability-based planning) of the S-CAP workshops provides an opportunity to directly impact outcomes (i.e., an improved local emergency operations plan) reflected in research studies (Boal & Bryson, 1987).

Future outreach efforts should build upon the S-CAP workshops to maximize local agrosecurity planning efforts through facilitating the planning process and incorporation of agrosecurity issues into discussion- and operations-based exercises to enhance the security of local agriculture as critical infrastructure.   High-cost commercial consultants are the most common alternative to comply with local, state, and federal emergency planning requirements; however, Extension can provide a cost-effective tool for local emergency managers to meet agrosecurity planning needs.  Extension can leverage its impact through EDEN’s national network of Extension disaster educators to increase its effectiveness in addressing local agrosecurity planning requirements, to develop resources to facilitate planning and exercise activities, and utilization of a train-the-trainer program to maximize planning and support activities.

EDEN’s educational opportunities provide a research-based, peer-reviewed, and evaluated process for developing local emergency operations plans that can not only be used in outreach, but may also be incorporated into traditional education curricula.  By using EDEN to strengthen local community agrosecurity planning efforts, it can help USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture achieve significant impacts in its priority areas of assuring food safety and global food security through limited disruption of the food supply that may otherwise result from a disaster.


Agroterrorism:  The threat to America’s breadbasket:  Hearing before the Committee on Governmental Affairs (S. hrg. 108-491), Senate, 108th Cong., 1.  (2003, November 19).   Retrieved from

American Veterinary Medical Association.  (2007).  U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Source Book (2007 ed.).  Schaumburg, IL:  American Veterinary Medical Association. 

Boal, K. B., & Bryson, J. M.  (1987).  Representation, testing and policy implications of planning processes.  Strategic Management Journal, 8, 211-231.

Bush, G. W.  (2002, July).  National strategy for homeland security.  Washington, D.C.:  The White House.  Retrieved from

Bush, G. W.  (2003, February).  The national strategy for the physical protection of critical infrastructures and key assets.  Washington, D.C.:  The White House.  Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2006, October 6).  Multi-state outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 infections from spinach.  Retrieved from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (2008, August 28).  Investigation of outbreak of infections caused by Salmonella saintpaul.  Retrieved from

Coffey, B., Mintert, J., Fox, S., Schroeder, T., & Valentin, L.  (2005, May).  The economic impact of BSE on the U.S. beef industry:  Product value losses, regulatory costs, and consumer reactions.  Retrieved from Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service website at

Davis, P. K. (n.d.).  Analytic architecture for capabilities-based planning, mission-system analysis, and transformation.  Retrieved from

Exec. Order No. 13228, 66 FR 51812.  (2001, October 8).  Establishing the Office of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Council.  Retrieved from

Extension Disaster Education Network.  (2010).  EDEN strengthening community agrosecurity planning project.  Retrieved from

Federal Emergency Management Agency.  (2009).  Comprehensive preparedness guide (CPG) 101:  Developing and maintaining state, territorial, tribal and local government emergency plans.  Retrieved from

Fitzsimmons, M.  (2007).  Whither capabilities-based planning?  Joint Force Quarterly, 44, 101-105.

Godson, R., & Shultz, R.  (2010).  Adapting America’s security paradigm and security agenda.  Washington, DC:  National Strategy Information Center.

Kartez, J. D., & Lindell, M. K.  (1987).  Planning for uncertainty:  The case of local disaster planning.  Journal of the American Planning Association, 53(4), 487-498.  doi:  10.1080/01944368708977138

Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards (PETS) Act of 2006, 42 U.S.C § 5121 (2006).  Retrieved from

Public Safety Canada.  (2006, May 26).  The United Kingdom foot and mouth disease crisis:  Impact on critical infrastructure.  Retrieved from

Quarantelli, E. L.  (1988).  Criteria for evaluating disaster planning in an urban setting.  Newark, DE:  Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware.

Quarantelli, E. L.  (1997).  Research based criteria for evaluating disaster planning and managing.  Newark, DE:  Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware.

The Technical Cooperation Program Joint Systems and Analysis Group Technical Panel 3.  (n.d.).  Guide to capability-based planning.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Agriculture.  (2008, February 12).  Safeguarding American agriculture.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine.  (2003, April).  Gypsy moth:  Slow the spread program.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.  (2006, April 6).  Soybean rust.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Michigan State University, Purdue University, & Ohio State University.  (n.d.).  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (2003, December 17).  Homeland Security Presidential Directive 7: Critical infrastructure identification, prioritization, and protection.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (2004, January 30).  Homeland Security Presidential Directive 9: Defense of United States agriculture and food.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (2007).  National preparedness guidelines.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (2008a).  National incident management system.  Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  (2008b).  National response framework.  Retrieved from

Walker, S.K. (2005). Capabilities - based planning - how it is intended to work and challenges to its successful implementation. Carlisle, PA: U.S. Army War College.

Last Updated:12/13/2011 8:40 AM

Printer Version Print Version   |   Share Bookmark & Share   |   Track Our Feeds Track Our Feeds
Connect with us: Like us on facebook   Follow us on twitter  EDEN on YouTube  EDENotes: A blog for delegates and friends
issues Agricultural Disasters Families and Communities Hazards and Threats Human Health Disaster Watch