WASHINGTON – Chicken houses across the country are one step away from being named the newest terrorist targets, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
As part of the DHS Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards, facilities with more than 7,500 pounds of propane gas — 1,785 gallons — could be considered high-risk. To determine if a facility is a security risk, operators must process complete “Top Screen” safety measures including vulnerability assessments, develop site security plans and implement protective measures.
The rule affects as many as 20,000 sites across the country, because propane gas is the most popular chicken house heating method used by poultry farmers. One house typically has a 1,000-gallon to 1,500-gallon tank attached to it.
U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Tom Carper, D-Del., have co-authored a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff demanding answers for what they describe as a waste of government time and money.
If the rule is approved, the regulations require 25 to 30 hours to fill out Internet-based reports. That means this process could prove even more taxing, if not impossible, because of a lack of high-speed Internet access across parts of the region.
Using unsecured connections at public libraries isn’t a realistic possibility either, said Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry. DPI, the Delaware-Maryland-Virginia region’s poultry research and lobbying arm, which has encouraged its members to take action last May because violators are fined $25,000 per day.
Satterfield said the rule was intended for industrial sites, not family farms.
“It’s unlikely that family farms growing chickens would be the object of terrorist attacks, and a risk assessment is a waste of their time and the government’s money,” Satterfield said.