The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine has created The Center for Agriculture and Food Security and Preparedness (CAFSP). U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp announced the Center during a recent news conference at the veterinary college.

The new Center will serve as a focal point for several key initiatives that will assist the nation in its efforts to protect agriculture and the food supply from terrorist threats. Agriculture and the food supply are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure and have been identified as a key sector that is vulnerable to terrorist threats.

CAFSP will house the college’s national training program that is being developed for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on agriculture and food vulnerability assessment. Development of this outreach training program is being funded by a $2 million grant the College of Veterinary Medicine received last fall from DHS.

The training program will provide industry and government officials at the state, county, and local levels across the country with tools to prevent and deter terrorist acts that target the agricultural and food sector. Facilities and operations considered vulnerable can reduce or eliminate risk through appropriate planning and training. The training program will be available at no cost to local communities later this fall.

Dr. Sharon Thompson, director of Partnership Programs at the veterinary college, leads the Center. Dr. Thompson, project director for the DHS grant as well as other homeland security related grants at the college says, “The formation of the Center demonstrates the College’s continuing commitment to its work in the homeland security arena and will support the further expansion of this work.” Other UTCVM faculty and partnering institutions will also be involved in the Center’s activities.

Dr. Michael Blackwell, UTCVM dean and retired Assistant Surgeon General and Chief of Staff of the Office of the Surgeon General, says the Center positions the college as a key player in the national effort to protect the nation’s food supply from acts of terrorism.

“This Center has come about because the UT College of Veterinary Medicine recognizes its responsibility to promote public health and to be on the team that protects national security,” Dr. Blackwell says. “The work that will come out of this Center has the potential to affect each and every American, anyone who consumes food.” Dr. Blackwell adds the Center is the result of the success the college has had in building partnerships and receiving funding from the Department of Homeland Security.

“The Center will provide a readily accessible Web portal for information on the DHS training program as well as showcase other College homeland security related activities,” says Dr. Thompson.

The Center will provide a focal point for its efforts to work directly with industry, especially in the vulnerability assessment and infrastructure protection arena. “We plan to develop online and additional in-person training programs,” she adds.

The Center will organize and host the second Foreign Animal and Emerging Diseases Training Course, which will be held in Knoxville in the summer of 2007.