Kansas remembers 9/11: The agro-terrorism expert

09/10/2011 4:13 PM

08/05/2014 4:25 PM

The people featured in this package suffered personal loss from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, endured fallout from them, or worked in fields that evolved in a world changed by them. Their stories, shared with Eagle reporter Fred Mann, are presented here in their own words.

James Lane is the undersheriff in Ford County. He began working on agro-terrorism issues the day of the attacks. Since then, he has worked with local, state and federal agencies, testified twice before U.S. congressional committees, and given more than 100 talks on agro-terrorism around the nation and in Canada. He talks about 9/11 and about efforts to protect the food supply from terror attacks.

“We had staff helping with school disaster plans that day. When the news started to break, we met in our conference room and followed the news media for a good part of the morning trying to grasp what was happening.

“At some point, we started talking about what we were going to address locally. We started making phone calls to industry folks, and doing directed patrols at critical infrastructure.

“These rural communities are highly dependent on agriculture, so that’s one of your first thoughts. The sheriff, Dean Bush, told me on 9/12, ‘We need this addressed, and that’s going to fall to you. I don’t want to be behind the camera trying to explain why we didn’t do anything.’

“I was a producer, born and raised on a farm. I’ve done that all my life while involved in law enforcement. I also worked with processors, so I had an understanding of what they did and how agricultural products were moved in this country.

“We put together a meeting of producers and other stakeholders in December 2001. Dr. Jerry Jaax of Kansas State University was the headliner. We had 121 people attend that meeting. We had a tremendous buy-in from that moment on.

“In October 2002, we put together a simulation exercise dealing with an intentional introduction of a foreign animal disease — foot and mouth — into a healthy animal population. It’s one of the most highly contagious diseases and certainly has the most adverse effect to cloven livestock. If you plan for the worst, you have a pretty good plan for anything else. . . .

“We developed a working plan to respond to anything related to terrorism in our community. As police officers, we’d never worked with veterinarians before and had very little interaction with public health folks. This allowed us to shore up those relationships. . . .

“We started a research project. I remember sitting at the National Institute of Justice for the kick-off for projects they were going to fund. Ours was one of eight across the nation. . . .

“We had to learn about how to stop the spread of disease, how many vehicles we’d have to face and how many men it would take.

“The best eyes and ears on the ground are agricultural people, so we put together the AgroGuard to encourage people in the industry to report suspicious activities.

“We worked with some folks from Quantico on how to collect evidence from an agricultural setting. We were trying to improve that, and I think we did. . . .

“Are we better prepared today than we were on 9/11? Yes, we are. We have better information sharing, better equipment, and a host of educated folks who know about how events could play out and how we need to deal with it.

“But we better work hard at prevention, because the response is very complex and would be very difficult to carry out because of the way agriculture does business. Agriculture in the U.S is highly efficient and relies heavily on movement of products. So inherently that makes it difficult. It’s not like a house on fire. That house isn’t moving, it’s going to stay right there.”

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