The Iowa Veterinary Rapid Response Team, mostly volunteer, is growing quickly as the state prepares for possible incidents of foreign animal disease, agroterrorism and large scale natural disasters.

Mark Shearer, the veterinary response coordinator for the Center for Agriculture Security, says the newly formed team's 298 members are among the state's most vital first responders.

"The animal industry and the veterinarians who serve the animal industry have a great stake in identifying and controlling animal disease," he says. "They realize more than anyone else the economic impact it has on Iowa."

The IVRRT team has members from more than 85 of Iowa's 99 counties and from five surrounding states, making it the nation's second largest after Kansas' 600-member team. Membership is expanding to include producers, animal health technicians, processing plant workers, scientists and veterinary medical students.

The teams are responsible for animal disease surveillance and diagnosis, as well as for control and eradication of diseases. Their activities may include quarantining animals, prohibiting animal movement, disinfecting farms, euthanizing animals and planning for carcass disposal.

The team is important in protecting Iowa's economy because incidents of foreign animal disease or agroterrorism could devastate the $14.7 billion crop and livestock production value in the state.

The IVRRT, which works with the Iowa Department of Public Health, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other state and federal partners, is overseen by the state veterinarian and secretary of agriculture. The team gets its authority from the Legislature.

Livestock producers can assist the state by registering their operations under the Iowa Premise Identification Program.

Since it was first offered in August, 5,271 livestock producers have voluntarily signed up for the program out of the estimated 45,000 to 90,000 operations.

For more information on the IVRRT, go to www.agriculture.state.ia.us/IVRRT.htm.

Source: Associated Press