An agricultural emergency in the state would affect all Kansans, as it would have a tremendous impact on the state’s economy, the food supply, and even public health and safety. Responding efficiently and effectively to such an emergency is critical.
The Kansas Agriculture Emergency Response Corps, launched in June 2017, was created to expand what has for a long time been a volunteer corps made up primarily of veterinarians. The corps of volunteers will still be mostly concerned with foreign animal diseases, but will also be equipped to respond to any agriculture emergency.
Recruiting is well underway, and training workshops began in the fall of 2017.
“This is something we’ve been working on for a couple of years,” says David Hogg, assistant emergency management coordinator for KDA. “One thing we’ve learned working through different exercises and looking at other things we’ve had to respond to is that during a major event, whether that’s an animal disease response or something else, we need more than just veterinarians.
“That’s the concept of this program — we’re going to need a wide variety of people with various backgrounds and expertise to help the state through an incident.”
While its main focus will still be on livestock disease outbreaks, the corps will also respond to a variety of agricultural emergencies, such as natural disasters or even bioterrorism threats.
The motivation for forming such a volunteer corps came in a couple of ways, according to Hogg. The KDA has an annual multiday, functional exercise where a foreign animal disease outbreak is simulated, which revealed how important it was to add more people with a wide range of knowledge and skill sets.
“We also learned from the high path avian influenza outbreak of 2015,” Hogg says. “And even recently, with the wildfires we’ve had in Kansas, we saw how we could use people that aren’t an animal disease, but just a natural disaster.
“Technically, this is an all-hazards approach.”
Kansans have always responded to crisis with a desire to help their neighbors, and this program offers them a formal opportunity to do so.
This volunteer corps is the first of its kind in the nation. KDA works diligently to be the best prepared state in its agriculture emergency response planning, and this volunteer corps will extend the state’s capabilities.