LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Security seminar discusses preventing agroterrorism in rural South Jersey

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

FBI Special Agent Erik Negron says the food chain is under attack. Negron is part of a special task force that is responsible for emerging threats, that includes agroterrorism — terrorist acts intended to disrupt or damage a country’s agriculture, especially with the use of biological chemical.

“I can tell you without a question that bad people want to do bad things to our food,” said Negron. “This isn’t talking about IEDs, and rifles and explosives. This isn’t the normal fighter in sandals with an AK-47. This is someone that was educated in the west.”

Negron along with Homeland Security and Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae discussed the dangers of agroterrorism at Cumberland County College.

“Agroterrorism is important to Cumberland County because we are a very rural county and we have a lot of farm as well as coal packing sites,” Webb-McRae said.

And because agriculture is one of the easiest sectors of the U.S. economy to disrupt, the Cumberland County prosecutor says a terrorist can introduce devastating disease with little-to-no risk of getting caught.

“Agroterrorism could affect a larger population more quickly than, let’s say, a bomb attack or a single shooter,” Webb-McRae said. “Because in our country we have such efficient transportation and production distribution networks, it could affect more people in a short amount of time before we know that there’s a threat,” Webb-McRae said.

“The FBI in the last year in a half has prosecuted five individuals that have walked up to supermarket food buffets and have sprayed some sort of something onto the food,” Negron said. “We are also close to looking at two things, the delivery of bio or chem weapons using a drone system.”

And Negron says the dangers aren’t limited to just farmers. Homeland Security says they’re now closely watching potential threats occurring around election time after a cult that was not happy with a makeup of a town in Oregon sprayed a salad bar with a chemical.

“I believe it was 50% of the townsfolk got sick and that really impacted the election results. And it all got traced back to this salad bar,” said Andy Smith from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Law enforcement says they plan to hold more workshops on agroterrorism prevention but stresses that the state and country as a whole needs to step up surveillance and awareness when it comes to threats involving the food chain.