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Healthy Farms Biosecurity Community

The Healthy Farms Biosecurity Group is a community is open to all stakeholders who engage with youth or agricultural producers, as they consider and implement effective biosecurity plans and practices. The project is supported by the USDA NIFA-funded Animal Disease Biosecurity Coordinated Agricultural Project (ADBCAP).

Summer 2020 Biosecurity Community Conversations Summary


Cross-Pollinating Biosecurity was the theme of the July, 2020, Healthy Farms Healthy Agriculture Community Conversations. Planned jointly by Julie Smith of the University of Vermont and Deb Grantham of the Northeastern IPM Center, the goal was to get together folks whose work involves protecting plant and animal health to talk about common goals and challenges in what they do. Featured speakers helped get the conversations started during each session. Conversations can continue in a forum in the Healthy Farms Biosecurity Community subgroup hosted by Connect Extension.

The first session on July 14 featured one speaker with plant health background, Dr. Elizabeth (Betsy) Lamb of Cornell University, and one with animal and public health background, Dr. Heather Fowler of the National Pork Board. After taking questions panel style they engaged with questions from participants. Participants were also led in reflecting on how the session changed how they think about biosecurity and what challenges are shared across plant, animal and human health. There were 25 participants in addition to the speakers and behind the scenes facilitators of the July 14 live meeting. A key take-away was that plant and animal producers share many of the same ways of thinking about protecting health although they use somewhat different terminology. For instance, “biosecurity” is not a familiar term to plant agriculturalists. They are more comfortable talking about hygiene and crop protection.

The second session on July 23 featured Dr. Glynn Tonsor, an agricultural economist with Kansas State University. Dr. Tonsor presented some insights grounded in economic thinking of how to approach an issue and helped raise our appreciation of conflicting incentives that exist between producers, or between producers and the government. Reflections from this session were combined (below) with those from the first session. There were 14 participants in addition to the speakers and facilitators of this live meeting. A key take-away was that we may not be able to fully align incentives between different stakeholders, but there are many options for bringing them into better alignment. Discussion explored the “free rider” effect where someone benefits from actions taken by others. Conversely, various carrots or sticks to modify behavior may be desired when an individual’s actions put at risk the health of the wider community.

Near the beginning of the first session, participants were asked to reflect on what came to mind when they heard the phrase “agricultural biosecurity.” The following responses were provided:

  • Creating an environment that protects ag assets and workers from known agents that may affect health or welfare.
  • Stopping invasives at the border, including on imported goods. Just 1 aspect.
  • Healthy plants/animals + healthy measures to keep food safe for people
  • Awareness of health in agriculture--animal, plant & human to protect viability and promote security & safety.
  • Preventing the entrance and/or spread of plant and animal disease agents on farms.
  • Operational biosecurity is one of my focus areas.
  • Better prevention strategies and tactics...

Participants of both session were asked what they hoped to accomplish by joining the session.

  • Hope to learn what's "going on" in the biosecurity area of agriculture. (1)
  • Network with others interested in the topic (1)
  • Expanding ag resource/information sharing (2)
  • Networking and expanding knowledge on good policy development (2)
  • Interested in seeing how other states approach information sharing to each other and the public about problems we face across the nation (1)
  • I am here to learn about this topic. I am a novice on the animal side, while I have knowledge of plants. (1)
  • I am curious to see the variability in tactics in policy development (2)

We asked for additional input mini-“ag chat” style on the following questions.

1. What terms do you use for practices to keep plants, animals, or humans healthy?

  • Isolation, cleaning and disinfection, traffic control, visitor control
  • Foot bath
  • Sanitation, awareness, disinfection
  • Quarantine, isolation, disinfection, pre-purchase examination, culling
  • Line of separation
  • Equipment C&D, Animal quarantine for new animals on farm. All-in, All-out production
  • Not sharing equipment, preventing visitors

2. In what ways has what you heard today changed what you think about biosecurity?

  • Heating and drying greenhouses to stop viral agents / weeds
  • Thinking a lot more about plants now! Have to keep them healthy so animals can eat them. 🙂
  • This subject applies to both plant and animal systems
  • Realize the multifaceted issue and the need; from producer, staff, plan, animal, all impacted, but differently and may need multiple options for effective care
  • How to /show/ people the importance and diligence it takes - like the mentioned farm tour where they have to actually suit up and see the facility
  • Communication with those unfamiliar with the process and need; the pork production conversation illustrated the many components that are needed.
  • If small producers developed plans similar to or in line with secure food supply plans, is there incentive for that? (2)
  • I am excited to see how implementation of policies that link biosecurity to indemnity percolate / impact disease incidence using a simulation model (2)
  • Is there a secure food supply version for crop producers? (2)

3. What challenges do you and your peers face in getting others to adopt practices that support plant and animal health?

  • Getting people to follow all biosecurity steps all the time, not just when risk is elevated.
  • One-On-One in groups with social distancing.
  • Challenges are mainly support and facilitation--support to ensure that needed supplies are available to use, that education and training are made available, and buy in from staff to learn and maintain a high level of awareness.
  • Biosecurity planning
  • Training people to follow proper protocols on biosecurity
  • Taking biosecurity seriously. Sometimes people CHOOSE to take shortcuts or avoid risk-reduction steps because they are lazy, don't want to be bothered, or think the effort isn't worth it.
  • Buy-in from people, producers, etc., across a broad spectrum of morals, beliefs, backgrounds.

4. Which challenges do you feel are common among those protecting plant and animal health?

  • (not numbered) Absolutely. It’s why I have my communications job. You experts are amazing!
  • (not numbered) Hearing does not equal listening.
  • (not numbered) Try GloGerm handwashing activity; visual, so people "get it."
  • (not numbered) These are all great comments and observations. I think one impact of the covid-19 pandemic is that the very effective one-one education and idea sharing is very restricted.
  • Getting time on agendas for biosecurity topics. "We already know that." Then do it! 🙂
  • Challenges are as others mentioned--individual responsibility to understand the risk and react appropriately. Can see that work tasks will take longer due to needed sanitation practices, staff and management need to agree on this fact.
  • Do we need to engage the social sciences more? Would that group be a beneficial partner moving forward? (2)

5. In what ways do you share your experiences, such as success stories and lessons learned, with others?

During the first session, after dropping this question (6) into the chat box we switched over to showing folks the Healthy Farms Biosecurity Community space in Connect Extension and how to find the forums there, so no one responded to question (6) in the chat. A couple comments were submitted during the second session.

  • I think the "local leader" effect is very important -- one or two farmers who adopt some practices and then share the benefits with neighbors. Educators can take advantage of that process.
  • Most large livestock states have state councils (eg KS Beef Council) that is in-part comprised of industry leadership that can be "targeted" /// tying this to the "local leader" comment as it also applies to major crop states (eg KS Corn Commission).

During the session, links to several resources were added to the chat pod.

In response to our closing poll in Zoom, we had the following responses. Participants could select more than one option in the poll.

(3) Access technical assistance

(3) Share a story from my own experience

(4) Be part of a community interested in biosecurity

(6) Find a story from someone else’s experience

(7) Learn more about topics I’m interested in

And of course we invited participants to complete a feedback form after the end of the session: The feedback form is available to those who view the recording as well.

As Danielle Farley interviews participants from the first set of community conversation on composting livestock mortalities, we will learn more about what members of the community are looking for.

The moderators and presenters were pleased with how these sessions went and look forward to seeing membership in the subgroup grow. As of August 20, 2020, there are 74 members.

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