Farm & Ranch Security
David W. Smith, Extension Safety Program
Farm and ranch security is a growing concern in the United States. Common
threats include biological, chemical, radiological, theft of supplies, equipment
and materials, and property damage. Perpetrators may include a terrorist
group, extremist organization, drug manufacturers, or ill-intentioned individuals.
These groups see farms and ranches as an easy target due to their remote
locations, easy access, and lack of surveillance.
Anhydrous ammonia, for example, is stolen from nurse tanks located on farms
and used to produce methamphetamine. Large quantities of ammonium nitrate
fertilizer have been used to make bombs killing hundreds of people and causing
catastrophic damage. Fuel storage tanks are often left unsecured and accessible
to would-be criminals.
Agriculture producers must realize the potential for these security threats
and do what they can to protect themselves, their families, co-workers and
the general public.
I. SECURITY MEASURES
Though it's practically impossible to stop all security threats, there are
some measures farmers and ranchers can take to improve security.
- Get Insurance Coverage: The first step should be to
protect yourself and your business from liability if a security breach
endangers the general public. Get insurance coverage that protects against
theft, vandalism, pesticide or chemical spills, and/or terrorist acts committed
on your farm. Invite your insurance agent to visit and inspect your property
to access security risks and hazards and to review coverage protections.
Law enforcement and fire department personnel can also help to identify
equipment and supplies that would be sought and used to perpetrate criminal
- Restrict Unauthorized Access: Restricting access includes
installing physical and procedural measures. The reason farms and ranches
are such easy targets for criminal activity is there remote locations and
the ability to roam with relative ease while encountering almost no surveillance.
To protect against trespassing:
- Install secure fencing and gates and frequently check
their condition. Look for signs of forced entry.
- Affix No Trespassing signs to all gates and at strategic
locations along fences.
- Consider attaching other signs or messages that would
deter would-be trespassers such as " This farm is under 24-hour surveillance ."
- Install security cameras and motion-activated lights
at high priority areas.
Procedural measures include:
- Maintain only one entry and exit point through which all visitors and
contractors must travel.
- Establish check-in and check-out procedures for any and all visitors,
making them a requirement.
- Use visitor identification badges to ensure the safety of your employees
- Monitor Employees: Agriculture operations that hire
many employees should establish employment procedures that help protect
the agricultural operation and other employees.
Agriculture employers should:
- Complete a thorough background check on each new hire.
- Ask for and check all employee references.
- Notify potential employees that your operation will report and file criminal
charges against any employee that breaks the law.
- Make existing employees aware of the potential for specific criminal
activity or terrorist threats at the facility. Maintain an open-door policy
for employees to report suspicious activity. Educate employees that work
in sensitive areas to restrict access to anyone that cannot show proper
identification. Workers should report any and all suspicious activity to
a supervisor or security person immediately.
Suspicious activity includes:
- Employees that stay unusually late or arrive exceptionally early for
- Employees that attempt to access files, information, or areas outside
of their responsibility.
- Employees that ask questions on sensitive subjects, or about the accessibility
to fertilizer, chemical, or fuel storage facilities.
- Employees that tamper with sensitive equipment or potentially hazardous
According to the Center for Domestic Preparedness "agro-terrorism" is "the
deliberate target of the agriculture and food production system with the
intent to disrupt, destroy or alter the production of food through the use
of diseases". Agro-terrorism also can mean the introduction of disease-causing
bacteria spores, viruses through insects and other vectors that carry diseases
to infect host plants and animals, causing widespread damage to the food
supply and economy.
Foreign diseases can enter the United States by accident, such as an immigrant
bringing along a favorite animal or fruit, or by natural means, such as a
free-ranging animal carrying it with them while migrating. Diseases are robust,
often evolving to withstand sunlight, heat, moisture, etc. This means they
are easy to spread, either intentionally or by accident.
To protect against agro-terrorism, agriculture producers should:
- Make safety the main priority at your facility and report all suspicious
- Give authorities copies of maps of your farm, ranch, or facility that
clearly indicate utility services shut-off points, and areas that house
potentially dangerous materials.
- Restrict access to crops and material storage facilities.
- Contact the local veterinarian, plant pathologist, and the USDA's Area
Veterinarian in Charge and Area Emergency Coordinator to determine what
to do in case of a terrorist threat or terrorist act.