The San Joaquin Valley is one of the richest agriculture regions in the world. And because it supplies a large chunk of the nation's food supply, it also can be a target for terrorism, experts say.
That's why raising awareness about the dangers of agroterrorism will be the focus of a daylong course next month in Clovis.
The Feb. 19 course is free and aimed at first-responders, farmers, environmental advocates and the general public. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Western Institute for Food Safety and Security at the University of California at Davis.
Andreas Borgeas, the Fresno County supervisor who's also a professor of international law at San Joaquin College, said the course is designed to increase awareness about the topic but also how to detect a possible agroterrorism event.
Borgeas said federal officials consider the nation's food and agricultural system one of the country's critical infrastructures.
"This is very high on our national security radar," Borgeas said.
As a leader in agricultural production, the Valley could be on the front lines of an attack and knowing how to respond and diagnose what occurred is important, he said.
Borgeas said that unlike other acts of overt terrorism, agroterrorism could be subtle like introducing a biological agent to a water supply or planting an invasive pest or pathogen into a field.
"The Valley is uniquely vulnerable because there are so many access points," Borgeas said. "One of our goals is to heighten the awareness about that vulnerability."
One of the most serious cases of agriculture mayhem in the Valley was the January 2013 arson that damaged 14 tractors and several cattle-hauling trailers at Harris Ranch in western Fresno County. Animal-rights activists claimed responsibility for the fire, which ranch officials have called a terrorist action.
If you go
What: Understanding the Dangers of Agroterrorism
When: Feb. 19, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: San Joaquin College of Law, 901 5th St. Clovis, Room 213
Details: Deadline to register is Jan. 31. Seating is limited. Register online at www.ruraltraining.org
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