Milk producers to benefit from Homeland Security research grant

Fred Payne, a University of Kentucky food engineer, had impeccable timing six years ago when he got an idea for defending American milk from terrorism.

Within months of Payne's brainstorm, a Stanford University professor wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times theorizing that terrorists could kill hundreds of thousands of people by dropping a few grams of botulism toxin into the tank of a milk truck leaving a farm.

The essay sent shock waves through the booming homeland security bureaucracy in Washington, which was looking for ways to spend its billions of dollars.

Also around this time, U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky, was establishing the non-profit National Institute for Hometown Security, or NIHS, in his hometown of Somerset. As a senior member of Congress, Rogers helps control homeland security spending; he has earmarked $52 million in federal funds for the NIHS, in part to pay for anti-terrorism research at Kentucky universities.

Fear, meet funding. Payne won $2.67 million in NIHS research grants.

Years later, Payne's work on a high-tech "milk-transport security system" is nearing completion and impresses the dairy industry with its potential. Payne has started a company, TranSecurity Systems Inc., to market it. Limited commercial testing in 2009 won high marks, Payne said.

A Washington Post series this week examined the vast public-private enterprise that has grown up around homeland security in Washington and communities around the country. Rogers' institute and the Kentucky projects it funds are one local example of that sprawling operation.

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