Farmers, product dealers and equipment manufacturers are recommended to take necessary security measures regarding manufacturing, storing, marketing, transporting and utilizing agricultural machinery and chemicals in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A consortium of U.S. organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency, are encouraging individuals and businesses to enforce a variety of security measures.

Joanne Kick-Raack, Ohio State University extension's pesticide education program state coordinator, said the security measures are designed to avoid possible misuse and vandalism of pesticides, fertilizers, machinery and other agricultural equipment and products.

"I think it's a normal, good practice that farmers keep an eye on their equipment. All the things that we normally teach in pesticide training, farmers should be always be following, but probably now it's more important to be checking those things," said Kick-Raack.

With bioterrorism on the minds of many throughout the country, especially following concerned reports of biological or chemical terrorism via aerial applicators, maintaining vigilance regarding agriculture supplies is being encouraged.

Steps that can be taken to improve security and ensure safety include:

* Establishing and maintaining facility perimeter security.

* Limiting access to all storage areas.

* Assuring that locks are case-hardened, tamper-resistant and in top working order.

* Using cable seal locks to secure individual storage containers.

* Maintaining thorough stock records and perform frequent inventories.

* Providing exterior lighting and systems for handling emergency situations (video cameras, alarms, etc.) and frequently check systems.

* Establishing contact with local law enforcement and fire authorities.

* Posting a list of emergency contacts (names, phone numbers, etc.) at facility entrance exteriors.

Kick-Raack said farmers should keep chemicals, such as pesticides and fertilizers, stored in a locked building or cabinet, away from children or unauthorized people. Vehicles used to transport or apply pesticides should be kept locked, and sprayer tanks should be empty when left unattended in a field or barnyard area.

"The comforting thing is that pesticides have become less toxic over the past 20 years and it's more difficult to get a hold of something that can cause widespread harm," said Kick-Raack. "You would have to use huge amounts to cause any major immediate public health threat. The more toxic pesticides are not sold in large amounts and you need a license to buy such a restricted-use product. Pesticides used according to label directions are not a public health threat."

Kick-Raack said security not only involves protecting products, but also being alert to unusual or suspicious actions from employees or customers. Chemical dealers should keep an eye out for customers who request large quantities of a particular product, especially if it's unclear what the product will be used for or if it's during an unusual time of the growing season. "Ask questions," said Kick-Raack. "For example, if a customer asks for a pesticide during a time when pesticide application is not warranted, then that should send up red flags."

Other indications of unusual activity or behavior may include:

* Seeming unfamiliar with details of using a particular chemical.

* Acting nervous, uneasy or vague, and avoiding eye contact.

* Demanding immediate possession of purchased material instead of available future delivery.

* Insisting on paying with cash instead of using credit or a check.

Even purchases of large amounts of fertilizer should raise an eyebrow. "It may signal someone is doing something they don't need to be doing," said Kick-Raack. "Large unwarranted purchases of fertilizer should be reported." Fertilizers were used in the attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building. "The bottom line is be more aware of your surroundings and what others are doing and do it on a regular basis."

The following agencies can be contacted to report possible pesticide terrorism: FBI- Chicago Office at 312- 431-1333; National Response System at 312-353-2318; EPA Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) hotline at 800-424-9346; or National Pesticide Telecommunications System at 800-858-7378.