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New Mexico State University

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NMSU Extension agents participate in national agriculture security training

New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service is participating in a pilot program in which county agents will serve as field trainers to deliver food safety and security training at the county and local level.

They will teach Department of Homeland Security-certified curriculum from the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training Academy of Counter-Terrorist Education, which is housed at Louisiana State University.

"NCBRT wants to see if secondary deliveries through the Extension service will expand their training and awareness to individual counties and communities," said Billy Dictson, director of biosecurity for the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU.

The NMSU center is an active partner with the national center in providing a variety of training designed to prepare the agricultural industry for potential terrorist threats to the United States' food supply.

Approximately 150 New Mexico agricultural industry professionals have received agricultural terrorism training. These individuals have first detector/responder duties in helping ensure a safer agriculture and food industry.

"We have trained the industry's first responders; now we want to train the general public," Dictson said. "The Extension agents will be certified as NCBRT trainers in October. They will then go back to their county and hold trainings for emergency management personnel, elected officials, agriculture producers and agribusiness people."

An additional potential audience for this training is 4-H and FFA members.

"We feel training the young people is important, because the younger generation in today's world needs to understand the world that we live in," Dictson said. "The world we live in is one where agriculture and food safety and security is an issue, and will always be an issue. If kids start learning that as young people, they will grow up knowing the need to be aware of potential situations."

Twelve New Mexico county Extension agents will join agents from Mississippi and Louisiana to be trained in the delivery of the academy's six-hour course on preparing communities for agricultural incidents.

Agents volunteering for this program are Tom Dominguez representing Quay, Colfax and Union counties; Patrick Kircher representing Roosevelt and Curry counties; Leigh Ann Marez representing Guadalupe, Harding and De Baca counties; Sandra Barraza representing Chaves, Lea and Eddy counties; Mike Larsen of San Juan County; Steve Lucero of Sandoval County; Pat Torres of Santa Fe County; Gene Winn of Torrance County; Tom Dean of Socorro County; Jack Blandford of Luna County; Dee Wear of Sierra County; and John Allen of Dona Ana County.

"If this pilot program goes well, the Extension Disaster Education Network is going to sign an agreement with NCBRT in November at the EDEN national meeting to expand the train-the-trainer program nationwide," Dictson said. "Eventually, NCBRT would like to approve Extension agents to teach as many classes as possible from the center's curriculum in this U.S. Department of Homeland Security-certified project."

The National Center for Biomedical Research and Training provides high-quality training to emergency responders throughout the United States. Its mission is to help America prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from, acts of domestic and international terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and high-consequence events, through teaching, training, technical assistance and research.