USDA Secretary Ann Veneman today announced that $1.8 million in grants will be distributed in 32 states to bolster emergency animal disease prevention, preparedness, response and recovery systems.

"These grants will be used to help various states better prepare and coordinate emergency preparedness activities and coordination related to animal disease protection," says Veneman. "Funding will be used for training, equipment purchases, and to conduct emergency preparedness exercises to help strengthen these important programs."

Grants have been awarded in the following states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Grants also were awarded to the National Emergency Management Agency and several native-American agencies to assist with livestock and wildlife surveillance.

The goal of the grant program is to assist states in meeting and exceeding animal disease response standards set by a steering committee of the National Animal Health Emergency Management System.

In remarks at the 47th Annual Conference of the National Chicken Council, Veneman also called for the establishment of a permanent agriculture infrastructure investment fund that continuously protects agriculture.

"We need to take a stronger, more proactive approach to the infrastructure needs of our producers," says Veneman. "This includes examining our pest and animal disease protection systems, our labs, research, and food safety programs."

Veneman notes that these are not programs typically addressed in a farm bill. However, today, farmers and producers face many new and emerging issues including, BSE, various strains of e-coli, salmonella and biosecurity, which were not commonly discussed during previous farm bill debates.