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August 12, 2007 - Be Mindful of Foreign travel

It is a foreign invasion that we never want to see here in the United States. I am not talking about an invasion by military troops; I am talking about an invasion of a disease that could impact the production of crops or livestock in this country.

Once again, we have a terrible reminder from the United Kingdom where livestock producers are experiencing their worst nightmare, another outbreak of Foot & Mouth Disease. Just about anyone in the world can remember the television coverage in 2001 of the six-million animals, 1-million cattle and 5-million sheep, that were slaughtered and burned in Great Britain to stop the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Now with the outbreak on farms 60 miles southwest of London earlier this month, England’s livestock producers are stunned. One farmer said the news left him “completely shocked and devastated, it felt as if our whole world had been turned upside down”. This should be a warning to us once again how vulnerable we are to an invasion, not necessarily by terrorists bearing arms and bombs, but terrorists carrying a vial of Foot & Mouth disease. If that were to spread in this country we would be experiencing what the United Kingdom experienced in 2001.

Despite the fact that Foot & Mouth disease is found in many countries around the world, we have not had an outbreak in this country since 1928. The Department of Agriculture has strict rules in place that prohibit the import of animals or fresh meat products from those countries and USDA inspectors at ports of entry, particularly airports, are extra vigilant to make sure travelers do not unknowingly bring those products across the border.

You and I do have an important role in this border concern. If you travel abroad, on your return you are handed the Customs/Immigration form and on that form is this question, “Have you visited a farm?” If you have, by all means, say “Yes”. You will not be quarantined; you will not be put in a cell; but you will be questioned about the country and the type of farm you visited. If it is a livestock farm, you probably will get a free shoe wash with a disinfectant to destroy bacteria or germs. That happened to the 40 people who traveled with me and my wife to Norway earlier this year and it added five minutes to the time it took us to clear Customs and Immigration. To me, it was time well spent.

It is vital that we follow the rules and make sure we do not bring into this country the kind of a disease that could devastate our food supply and it’s producers.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.