The Animal Agriculture Alliance, a nation-wide non-profit organization dedicated to bridging the communication gap between farm and fork, recommends taking proactive steps to secure your farm by preventing and planning for any situations that may endanger your livestock or property. Farm security is important for biosecurity, the safety of livestock and people, and reputation management. Securing your farm does not mean you have anything to hide – it means you want to protect the safety of your animals, people on your property and your livelihood.
To help ensure security, have proper lighting, motion detectors, security cameras, and locks or key code access on gates and doors. Proactively connect with local law enforcement – let them know any concerns you have and ask for advice and protocol suggestions. Make sure they have access to maps of your facilities. If you do encounter any suspicious activity, immediately report it to law enforcement and notify the Animal Agriculture Alliance and your state association. This could be anything from someone trying to get hired on your farm with dishonest intentions to a drone flying overhead.
Visitors on the farm
It is common for a farm to have several planned and unplanned visitors in and out throughout the day- veterinarians, sales people, consultants and even a curious passer-by. Trespassers will take advantage of this and have been known to arrive on farms claiming to be USDA representatives or company personnel. It is important to verify the identity of any unexpected visitors. Don’t be afraid to ask for credentials or other forms of identification. If you do have a visitor on the farm, escort them at all times. Make sure all family members and employees know how to handle an unexpected visitor. Have a written protocol in place and review it with everyone who works at the farm.
Carefully evaluate all inquiries and information requests you receive by phone, mail or online. It is important to gather as much information as possible about who is requesting the information and why – and reply in writing. Monitor threats by watching for warning signs, such as an increase in requests for information and unusual interest in gaining employment. You can use Google Alerts to monitor media coverage of your farm name, industry and region. Activists often use social media to organize so search social media regularly.
There have been recent incidents of unauthorized individuals gaining access to farms by trespassing, breaking into barns at night, taking photos from nearby public property or using drones. It is important to post no trespassing signs and report details of any suspicious behavior to law enforcement.
Being hired on farm while working for an activist organization to record video is a common strategy for some groups working to damage the reputation of our industry. To avoid having this happen on your farm, the Alliance shares these tips:
* It is vital to thoroughly screen applicants and check all references.
* Your hiring process should start with a written application form for all employees that requires a signature.
* NEVER take an application at face value. ALWAYS check an applicant’s references!
* Never call a cell phone for a company reference, always dial the company directly and ask to be transferred to the referenced employee.
* Be cautious of individuals who try to use a college ID instead of state issued ID or have out of state license plates.
* Search for all applicants online to see if they have public social media profiles (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) or websites/blogs. Look for any questionable content or connections to activist organizations.
* Require all employees to sign your animal care policy. Provide proper animal handling training and updates. Require employees to report any mishandling to management immediately.
* Coming to work unusually early or staying late and going into areas of the farm not required for their job are red flags to watch out for.
* Be vigilant!
* If something does not seem right, explore it further.
When conducting a job interview, there are several questions you can ask to help determine if the applicant is truly interested in the position and helping your business, or working on behalf of an activist organization to gain employment. You can directly ask the applicant if they are working for any organization that is paying/asking them to collect information related to your company’s proprietary procedures or processes. As always, it is important to work with local legal counsel to ensure compliance with federal and state laws for your hiring process. Contact the Animal Agriculture Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org or (703) 562-5160 for more questions to ask during the interview and additional security tips. Members of the Alliance have access to additional security information, sample forms, crisis management tips and alerts of suspicious activity throughout the country. Visit www.animalagalliance.org/join for more information on membership.