Topeka Agriculture advocates, producers, researchers and consumers are being invited to what organizers are calling the state's first comprehensive conference on agroterrorism since the Sept. 11 attacks.
The Koch Crime Institute, Department of Agriculture and Kansas State University announced Wednesday that the Midwest Conference on Agriculture Bioterrorism will be March 25-26 in Manhattan.
Jerry Wells, Lawrence, executive director of the crime institute, said he expected about 300 to attend. The gathering will be open both to Kansans and residents of other states.
"Anyone who grows food or eats food ought to be in attendance," Wells said.
He said the state economy's dependence on agriculture more than justified the conference, which organizers intend to make an annual event.
W. Trewyn, Kansas State vice provost for research, said many of the threats to livestock and crops were developed during the Cold War as weapons of mass destruction. In the hands of terrorists, the agents could cripple the state's ability to produce and export farm products.
He said producers must be able to distinguish an intentional disease from an accidental exposure. They can be assisted by Kansas State extension agents in each county who are trained to recognize diseases and recommend an appropriate response.
Wells said the conference would address the appropriate actions for first responders to terrorist attacks.
Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jamie Clover Adams said producers have willingly been taking part in the state's preparedness against attacks.
"Farmers and ranchers have long known the threats that plant and animal disease pose. That is a fact of life. It comes with the territory," Adams said.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is reviewing a bill to expand a law making it a felony to infect plants or animals with disease. Convicted terrorists would be eligible for felony murder charges if the infections of plants or livestock resulted in death to humans.