said. "So the minimum that the markets are going to shut down is going to be several months, if not several years.

"We're talking a long-term event that may be longer, truthfully, than the recovery is or the immediate recovery was, for the World Trade Center," Moats added.

Practicing Prevention

Unfortunately vulnerabilities in the agriculture system typically are detected only when people fall ill, Gillespie said.

"There are some new technologies beginning to emerge that may help, but the economy of them is pretty difficult - whether producers and even consumers are willing to pay this extra cost is the question," he added. "Probably the most effective way for us to have early detection of mischief or something going wrong is in fact the employees who work very directly with the food system. Again, that's a challenge because there's such a turnover in that particular sector of our economy."

In South Carolina, Clemson University's Cooperative Extension Service helps educate farm producers and the public about potential agroterrorism activities.

"We're trying to help coordinate and organize County Agricultural Response Teams (CARTs)," van Dijk said. "In this case, CARTs are committees of people in the industry, producers, agency people, county emergency manager, law enforcement, fire rescue folks, animal control people. We help organize these committees who then can, on a local level, identify issues that might be for their county, their location."

The county CART falls under the county emergency manager's authority, he said, and considers where the issues are in the county, and helps to educate and manage if an incident takes place. CARTs, van Dijk added, aid in actual response, along with police, fire and emergency management services.

"We have the local knowledge of agriculture, have contact with local producers and know what livestock industries are in the local area, so we know what's involved," he said. "Then we also become members of the county response team to help contain whatever incident might happen."

One thing to keep in mind, van Dijk said, is to look at agroterrorism under the all-hazards umbrella.

"At the same time we're considering agroterrorism, being able to respond also helps in being able to respond to a hurricane disaster, flood - you name it," he said. "Being aware, knowledgeable, educated, and able to respond helps all of those things."

Jessica Jones  |  Editor