During interviews, some in the audience said agriculture may actually have a leg up on the security issues, partly due to efforts that came before 9/11 to address food safety and traceability.

Chris Thiesen, who oversees food safety at Brandt Farms, a Reedley grower of tree fruit and table grapes, pointed out that growers have long dealt with audit schemes that pinpoint critical control points in growing, harvesting and processing of food and animals.

 

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He pointed to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), PrimusLabs Good Agricultural Practices, GlobalGAP and other regimens that help focus producers and others on where contamination can occur.

“Sanitation is paramount to what we do, and this another dimension of that,” Thiesen said.

 

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David Aquino, director of human resources with Giumarra Vineyards in Bakersfield, and Rudy Ortiz, safety compliance coordinator with Wawona Packing Co. in Cutler, said much the same thing.

“We know we need to identify areas of potential contamination and take it one step further,” said Aquino, who helped develop the curriculum for the program on agroterrorism.

He said special care is taken in vineyards where table grapes are picked and packed, in assuring that trucks that haul the grapes are free of contaminants and in identifying who has access to what within packing houses.

Some who spoke at the forum talked of a laxity in some farming and processing operations.

Peggy Schmidt, an associate professor with the College of Veterinary Medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, said nobody talked with her or challenged her in any way as she went about her business of colleting specimens at a dairy in Ontario in Southern California.

Fresno County Sheriff’s Sgt. Michael Chapman, a member of county’s Ag Task Force, was dismayed that thieves were able to make off with a truckload of almonds from a San Joaquin Valley plant, simply loading it up after pulling into the plant that was preparing to close for the day.

He said nobody called the plant manager to question the pickup.

“You’ve got to lock the doors,” he said.

“People out there have a good idea of what belongs and what doesn’t belong,” he said, adding that if neighbors or others see something that looks suspicious — whether it’s people peering through binoculars or trucks pulled into places they don’t normally appear — “make a timely report. People think law enforcement is too busy. Call us, or at least write down a license plate.”