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Critical Infrastructure News

Maryland Soybean Board Funds Groundwater, Grain Projects

A multi-year project led by the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor the nutrient quality and the age of groundwater as it leaves farm fields along the Upper Chester River continues in Queen Anne’s County.

Funding the project for the 2015-2016 year has been approved by the Maryland Soybean Board.

The $39,923 soybean checkoff grant was one of a total of 10 grants totaling $180,887 authorized by the board before spring planting. The Maryland Soybean Board administers the soybean checkoff program in the state. Through the soybean checkoff, farmers contribute one-half of one percent of the net market value of soybeans at the first point of sale to support research, marketing and education projects.

USGS investigators are monitoring the groundwater that percolates through the ground from both irrigated and dryland corn and soybean fields. They want to know what’s in that water in the way of nutrients — fertilizers — and how long it takes that water to get from the field to the stream.

The research is being supported also by the Maryland Grain Producers Association and is expected to take another two years to complete.

Here’s a rundown on the other checkoff grants awarded by the board:

  • A total of $22,106 for two projects by Dr. Robert Kratochvil, University of Maryland grain specialist. He is exploring the role of variety maturity and planting date on the performance of dry-land double crop soybeans, and secondly, the response of full season irrigated soybeans to poultry manure.
  • $20,000 to Schillinger Seeds to support the development of non-GMO varieties to be used in feed for poultry and fish. Schillinger is a national firm with a research farm in Queenstown on the Eastern Shore.
  • $13,550 to University of Maryland entomologist Dr. Cerruti Hooks to lead a study of how and when to kill a rye cover crop and how that choice may impact soil moisture and soil temperature or weed populations.
  • $25,962 to retired University of Maryland entomologist Dr. Galen Dively, who wants to know whether repeated use of herbicide-treated seed has any impact on non-target bugs on the crop above the soil or microbes in the soil under it.
  • $24,426 to Dr. Ray Weil, University of Maryland soils who has plotted a six-point study ranging from determining if early planted cover crops can capture the nitrogen that is deep in the soil profile to evaluating the effect of aerial application of early cover crops into standing soybean or corn crops.
  • $20,000 to University of Delaware plant pathologist Dr. Jeb Jaisi to continue his exploration of the origins of phosphorous in the Chesapeake Bay.
  • $6,550 to Dr. William Lamp and Jessica Grant to look at the over-wintering rate of the kudzu bug in Maryland and what the degree-day requirements are for the pest to colonize in Maryland soybeans.
  • $8,370 to Caroline County ag agent Jim Lewis to determine the soybean maturity capable of producing, in Maryland, the highest yield with irrigation and at an early or late planting date.


Source: Star Democrat


A Security Checklist for SCADA Systems in the Cloud

Given the critical nature of operations that supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems manage, an article containing the words "cloud," "SCADA" and "vulnerabilities" together should raise the hair on the necks of information security professionals.

Traditionally, SCADA applications used to control critical infrastructure have been hosted within an organization's IT infrastructure and have relied on the protection offered inside the infrastructure perimeter. In some cases, organizations have "air gapped" their SCADA applications from the broader network and particularly from the Internet.

Today, organizations have recognized the advantages of cloud-based computing and are migrating their SCADA applications into the cloud environment to reduce costs, gain efficiencies and increase reliability. Because it is still relatively new, we have yet to see many cyberattacks on cloud-based SCADA systems, but that is sure to change with time. More troubling, however, is that attacks against cloud-based SCADA applications can be disproportionately harmful because of their criticality.

Considering the risks

Before moving SCADA applications to the cloud, the security risks must be considered with eyes wide open. Although cost reduction and increased efficiency are significant business drivers, so too is security. The impacts of data loss/compromise, loss of organizational control and denial of service should be balanced against the advantages of cloud-based SCADA hosting. Organizations must establish their risk tolerance and their level of comfort with giving up the control they may currently exercise through internal IT infrastructure hosting.


Key Considerations for Critical Infrastructure Communications

Critical infrastructure defines all the assets, systems and networks in place to store and safeguard information vital to national security in the United States. So vital, in fact, that its incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on everything from economic security to public health and safety. Critical infrastructure is the country’s foundation, and compromising it would result in significant implications to the economy, security and overall health of our nation.

The critical infrastructure sectors require strict guidelines, standards and oversight by government organizations. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), for example, oversees compliance and creation of regulations to ensure that communications systems can withstand even the most trying scenarios, including but not limited to intentional “radio frequency jamming” attacks. Strict guidelines and policies are set in place because this communication infrastructure is not something to be taken lightly. It is not an optional part of a critical facility’s budget – it is a “must-have.”

“Radio frequency jamming” is a very real threat for critical infrastructure sectors. Intentional tampering with mission-critical radio transmissions constitutes a major risk to critical infrastructure and the public which relies on the services these facilities provide. Interrupting even a portion of an asset deemed to be ‘critical’ can have devastating consequences, as key information and capabilities may not be able to run smoothly and efficiently. Because these types of facilities have become attractive targets for terrorists, maintaining network interoperability is paramount to ensure safety officials are equipped to protect our critical infrastructure and able to communicate with local, state and federal entities across the region.

It is important to know what tools and best practices can be used to ensure uninterrupted communications in the event that critical infrastructure comes under attack. As an example, a nuclear facility’s communications needs are very diverse, ranging from highly robust and secure networks for security personnel to more cost-effective solutions for operations and maintenance. Today, many security officers are required to carry two, and in some cases three, radios in an attempt to meet NRC regulations regarding possible intentional jamming. However, attempting to utilize multiple radios during a critical incident is not practical and creates considerable safety issues.

State, Poultry Industry Take Precautions Against Bird Flu

Agriculture officials and poultry farmers in Maryland are taking extra precautions against avian influenza after outbreaks devastated flocks in other states. The Baltimore Sun reports the Maryland Department of Agriculture has banned the entry of waterfowl in fairs and shows in the state, stepped up testing requirements for poultry and met with emergency-management officials to prepare in case of an outbreak.

No cases of the avian flu have been reported in Maryland but state officials are reaching out to commercial farmers in the state’s $1 billion poultry industry and the growing number of backyard chicken enthusiasts.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian flu in 21 states since December. The disease spreads through the animals’ saliva, feces, and nasal secretions. The USDA reported this month that the outbreak in the Midwest has boosted egg and roasting turkey prices, but chicken prices are down since other countries are restricting poultry imports.

While officials say the rate of new cases has slowed, concerns remain in a state that ranks eighth in the production of broiler and meat chicken. Egg, broiler and turkey producers in the region lost nearly $200 million during a 1983 outbreak in the region, according to the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

“I hope we never get it, but the chance is always there,” said Jonathan Moyle, a poultry specialist with the Lower Eastern Shore Research and Education Center in Salisbury.

Salisbury-based Perdue Farms is following regular protocol to stop the spread of all disease, making sure poultry houses are bird-proof to prevent exposure to wild birds and participating in training and exercises with state and federal officials, spokeswoman Julie DeYoung said.

George and Linda Stutzman’s farm in Denton contracts with Perdue and has five chicken houses for 100,000 birds. Purdue requires precautions such as signs prohibiting unauthorized visitors and trucks must be disinfected before entering the farm, George Stutzman said.

“We keep track of where people have been,” he said. “If everybody was more vigilant about the biosecurity, we wouldn’t have such a bad outbreak.”


Source: Star Democrat

Marylanders traveling for July 4 holiday to increase

More than 870,000 Marylanders are expected to travel 50 miles or more during the July 4 holiday weekend, the highest figure for the period since at least 2001. The figure is up 2.3 percent over last year, reflecting lower gas prices and an improved jobs market, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic. The holiday period is defined as July 1-5.

Some 87 percent of Marylanders traveling over the holiday are expected to do so by automobile. At $2.76 on Thursday, the average price for a gallon of gas in Maryland is at its lowest price in five years, according to AAA. Seven percent will travel by airplane, while 6 percent will do so by bus, train or watercraft.

Meanwhile, Marylanders will also see lower tolls across the state next weekend. Gov. Larry Hogan announced last month he was rolling back multiple tolls starting July 1, including from $6 to $4 for cars traveling over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Nationally, nearly 42 million Americans are expected to travel for the July 4 holiday.

Source: Baltimore Business Journal