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October - December 2003
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Ensuring the Safety of American Agriculture
By Ryan Lanclos, Missouri Department of Agriculture

When standing in a field, time may seem to stand still on an American farm. However, agriculture is changing as rapidly as any other aspect of the contemporary world.

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The Exotic Newcastle Disease Map Book (ENDM) supplies information about the surrounding area as well as delineating one-, two-, and three-kilometer containment areas around the sites.

Recent events have caused the American agricultural industry to be more keenly aware of the need for precautions that will safeguard the nation's food supply. The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Europe and the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, have made America realize that its crops and livestock could be endangered by foreign animal disease outbreaks or terrorist attacks.

State and federal agencies are implementing homeland security measures to protect both resources and consumers. Farmers are monitoring activities more closely to prevent a catastrophic event that could endanger agricultural resources and cripple an already struggling economy. Although most homeland security efforts focus on terrorist activity, animal disease outbreaks are not limited to deliberate acts of bioterrorism and can occur naturally.

To help safeguard the state's agricultural industry and food supply, the Missouri Department of Agriculture is implementing a plan that uses GIS to help monitor, model, and deal with any agriculturally related event. Contingency modeling for potential foreign animal disease outbreaks is a driving force in the implementation of an enterprise GIS for the department. The Exotic Newcastle Disease Map Book (ENDM) is one application that is already in place. It instantly provides first responders with critical information for handling an outbreak of the disease.

Using ArcGIS from Esri, the system produces detailed maps about confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) for poultry throughout the state. By providing a basemap for each CAFO location in the state, ENDM offers information about the county, individual sites, the area surrounding each CAFO, the road network that provides access to each site, and any water bodies near the site that could be contaminated. The system also delineates one-, two-, and three-kilometer containment areas around the sites.

Using ENDM hard-copy maps and digital maps published using the ArcPublisher extension for ArcGIS, along with handheld GPS units in the field, first responders can relay an accurate assessment of a situation back to the office. This data flow supplies the level of accuracy necessary for making effective decisions and minimizes the lag time that is critical for first responders assessing a situation.

From this assessment and subsequent testing, the state veterinarian can determine an appropriate response that includes the preferred method for disease eradication. Based on this protocol, GIS provides department staff with information that aids them in selecting methods for cleansing the site with minimal environmental impact.

Implementing GIS at the Missouri Department of Agriculture has increased the department's efficiency in responding to foreign animal disease situations in the state. Giving the department's users a comprehensive view of a site's local conditions, as well as information on the surrounding area, provides enhanced decision support for rapid initial needs assessments. These assessments include determining the number of personnel needed for quarantine control and traffic monitoring and estimating the animal population located in proximity to the affected area, which also determines the manpower needed for subsequent quarantine control and disease eradication and the size of decontamination areas around an infected site.

Agriculture is inherently spatial in nature and well positioned for the integration of GIS. Quickly providing maps to field personnel has decreased response time and supplied an improved basis for decision making. ArcGIS provides the Missouri Department of Agriculture with a powerful analytical tool that supports the department in adapting to an ever-changing world and assisting in the state's homeland security efforts.

For more information, contact

Ryan Lanclos, Homeland Security
GIS Program Coordinator
Missouri Department of Agriculture
P.O. Box 630
Jefferson City, Missouri 65102
Tel.: 573-751-5518
Fax: 573-751-6919

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