Governor Blagojevich and Illinois Department of Agriculture Director Chuck Hartke has announced the state is developing new, cutting edge technology to help emergency officials respond more quickly and effectively in the event of an agroterrorist attack.
After securing a Federal Homeland Security grant through the Illinois Terrorism Task Force Homeland Security program, the state is taking initial steps to develop a computer-tracking program that features GIS technology to collect and share information on all livestock and other agriculture resources. The announcement follows the success of a pilot program the Governor launched in 2003 that used GIS technology to plot agricultural assets and livestock.
The GIS project will be developed in two phases. Phase one will collect information and develop a GIS strategic plan for the Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) that will focus on animal health. Phase two will develop the software technology to track animals and other agricultural assets to better prepare, prevent or respond to an agricultural emergency.
The 2003 pilot project, launched in Clinton County, used sophisticated GIS technology to plot agricultural assets, such as livestock, grain elevators, food processing facilities and companies that special in transporting agricultural produce. The coordination of information through this system demonstrated to IDOA emergency staff that a coordinated and swift response can be the difference between containment of a disease to a single farm and widespread infection that causes the death of many livestock and millions of dollars in lost income.
The new GIS program being developed will also track agricultural interests, as well as enable IDOA to share information with other agencies and ensure a coordinated response to emergencies on several levels. GIS Solutions, a Springfield-based company, will develop the new system. The project will be paid for through a $165,000 Federal Homeland Security grant.