May 30, 2002
USDA funds homeland security preparedness at Purdue
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. An $850,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant announced today (Thursday, 5/30) will enhance Purdue University programs aimed at detection and diagnosis of threats to plants and animals, as well as a disaster information program.
The $850,000 was part of total federal funding of more than $1.1 million for homeland security preparedness that will be shared between Purdue and the state of Indiana.
USDA Deputy Secretary Jim Moseley, of Clarks Hill, Ind., announced the grant along with Victor Lechtenberg, dean of Purdue's School of Agriculture, in the Morgan Conference Room of Purdue's Food Science Building. The money is part of $43 million being divided among the 50 states, U.S. territories and protectorates, and the Tribal Nations to strengthen the safety of the nation's food system. The government entities and universities will collaborate with the USDA to form a network focused on the rapid detection and identification of animal and plant diseases, pests and other contaminants that could create a national health threat.
In making the announcement, Moseley said the United States is heading toward recovery from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. But he said the nation must be prepared for other crises.
"The threat is real," Moseley said. "I've been to more CIA and FBI briefings since Sept. 11 than I ever dreamed as an Indiana farmer. We must think about the future."
The USDA has a significant responsibility to protect the nation's food supply, Moseley said.
He said much of the money goes to programs to deal with animal diseases because at the present time the agencies involved believe those are the greater danger. The USDA funding is meant to "help build a defense mechanism and response network at the local level."
Indiana Lt. Gov. Joseph Kernan, who also is the Indiana commissioner of agriculture and chairman of the state's Counter Terrorism and Security Council, echoed that belief.
"We recognize the importance of sharing information in order to make Indiana safe," Kernan said.
Two Purdue programs will share the bulk of the $850,000 coming directly to the university, Lechtenberg said. One is the Center for Environmental and Regulatory Information Systems and the other is the Purdue Extension Disaster Education Network (EDEN).
Additional money will enhance the state's ability to detect and respond to animal diseases through the Office of the State Veterinarian and the state's Purdue-based Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. Animal disease detection and diagnosis is an important part of homeland security as evidenced by the outbreak two years ago of foot and mouth disease in Great Britain.
The $1,154,160 in USDA homeland security funds earmarked for Indiana will be divided as follows:
The biggest share of the funding goes to Purdue for EDEN, part of a national network of land-grant universities. Established in 1993, the network has a proven track record of sharing knowledge and educational materials on natural disasters and delivering needed information to local areas.
The $600,000 earmarked for Purdue to spearhead the national EDEN project primarily will be used to further develop a database of homeland security education materials, said Steve Cain, project director and Purdue Extension communication specialist.
"The project first will assess the needs of producers, consumers and agricultural business," Cain said after the funding announcement. "With that information, we'll identify existing educational resources and ensure that the public is aware of them. Then we'll explore ways to develop new homeland security informational materials with an emphasis on protecting plants from pests and diseases, either naturally occurring or ones that may be part of a bioterrorism plot."
In addition, Lechtenberg said funding is allocated for expansion of a program already on the campus, the Center for Environmental and Regulatory Information Systems.
"From the USDA funds, $250,000 will allow the Purdue University School of Agriculture to become the central data handler for a national plant disease diagnostic network," Lechtenberg said. "As outbreaks of plant diseases are identified in various places across the nation, that information will be fed to Purdue immediately.
"This will allow us to rapidly diagnose outbreaks anywhere in the country. It will also give the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and other agencies a single national resource to determine the extent of a plant disease outbreak."
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