Agricultural officers on look out for biotrouble

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LAS VEGAS -- Officers of the newly formed Agriculture Enforcement Unit of the Nevada State Department of Agriculture underwent training here and in Pahrump last week in preparation for initiating road patrols and monitoring of agriculture products, commodities, plants and animals entering Nevada from neighboring states.

"Other states have fixed ports of entry (bug stations)," said Jim Connelley, Chief of the Agriculture Enforcement Unit, "Nevada has chosen to go with mobile patrols and site specific monitoring."

The Nevada Department of Agriculture and the Nevada Legislature have feared for some time Nevada might become a dumping ground for illegal, infested, or diseased plants, animals or other agricultural commodities.

Field agents and inspectors of the State Department of Agriculture are designated peace officers with powers of enforcement in Nevada. Officers investigate and can arrest and execute warrants, or stop a vehicle carrying agriculture products or commodities. Agriculture Enforcement Officers will be in uniform and driving marked cars or pickup trucks.

Twenty-six plant and nursery stock quarantines, pests such as imported fire ants and foreign animal diseases, such as foot and mouth or anthrax, are being targeted.

"Sept. 11 added even greater urgency to our mission, Connelley said. "Now we have to also focus on safeguarding the food supply in our state with the possible threat of bio- or agro-terrorism."


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