The Founding of the Center

Jeff Witte, Billy Dictson, & Bobby Dictson
From Left to Right: Jeff Witte, Bobby Dictson, Billy Dictson - The Founders of the Center

September 11, 2001, was a catastrophic and life changing day in the United States and around the world. The aftermath over the next few years provided opportunities to reevaluate and implement security measures for the protection of the homeland. This included the food an agriculture sector. Towards the end of 2002, the New Mexico Department of Agriculture began working with various agencies to bring an agriculture and food background into the National Security discussion. In early 2004, NMDA hired Billy Dictson to provide the needed input into the agriculture and food industry to help secure the food and agriculture sector. The department established partnerships with other agencies, including the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, USDA, FBI and others. In working with the private sector and these agencies, it became evident that an extensive training program needed to be created with a focus on production agriculture, supply chain management and food processing. The NMSU Cooperative Extension Service was the perfect partner.

The Center was organized in 2005, as the SW Border Food Safety and Defense Center (The Center) following 3 years of doing work in the Agro security area. This joint venture between the Cooperative Extension Service of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences and the New Mexico Department of Agriculture conducted Agro security trainings and exercises within NM and nationally. These trainings and exercises engaged a wide array of producers, state and federal agencies, educators, and veterinarians. The Center trained and exercised to assist communities in development of agriculturally related emergency management plans, provide an awareness of agro-terrorism events, provide assistance for the surveillance and response to the full range of plant and animal diseases, and actively participate in the NM Agriculture Livestock Incident Response Team (ALIRT).

The Center, mainly grant driven funded mostly through the New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, with other funds from various USDA agencies, contracts with the Extension Disaster Education Network and work with several other universities such as Louisiana State University, Purdue, University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, and others.

Primary Goal: Ensuring a safe and secure food supply.

  • Preparing for, responding to and recovering from intentional and natural disasters
  • Help families, youth and individuals be physically, mentally and emotionally healthy
  • Enhance workforce preparation and life skills

The Center has become an established source of subject matter expertise with credibility and resources to assist in a coordinated training and agriculture emergency management program. Center staff are in constant contact with local and state emergency managers, state, tribal and federal entities to prepare and respond to any emergency involving the food and agriculture sector. The Center also works with similar agencies in Mexico in an effort to effectively prepare for any agronomic and food related emergency in the border region.