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DHS says Wisconsin has high number of terrorist targets

According to a list submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, emergency management officials consider Wisconsin to have more terrorist targets than all other states but Indiana.

Both Midwestern states are especially concerned about protecting agricultural assets, reporting 77 times more farming- related sites than Minnesota or Illinois.

Wisconsin agriculture officials say farming contributes 50 billion dollars to the state economy through jobs and products sold.

Because of that, Wisconsin wants federal Homeland Security money to protect potentially- vulnerable areas like livestock markets and poultry producers from bioterrorism or other attacks.

Robin Schmidt oversees food security for the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. She says it's not unreasonable to think that somebody might be trying to target the agricultural systems in this country based on what we know on how easy it could be done and what it would do not only to the state economy, but also to the national economy because of exports.

Wisconsin's list of potential terrorist targets is long. Not all are farming related; for instance, Homeland Security received a request for funding protection for a Milwaukee shopping mall.

State officials say they are whittling the list of 7,000 locations down to 100 terrorist targets.

The Office of Justice Assistance oversees homeland security grants. Executive Director David Steingraber says they excluded suggestions like Applefest in Bayfield, which can draw 50,000 visitors.

He says the state works through county emergency management directors, who were given the criteria. He says early on, state officials discovered the counties were sending a lot of things they didn't anticipate getting.

Homeland security dollars are already being used in various ways. This week, Wisconsin agriculture and health officials will do a disaster drill involving the Prairie Island nuclear power plant in Minnesota. The purpose of the mock situation is to see how far radioactive material might drift across Wisconsin farms, and how it might affect crops and animals.