COMMENTARY- NBAF project would be a boon for Kansas

In Kansas and our neighboring states, protecting our food supply?crops and animals?is key. This nation?s economy depends on farmers and ranchers and those who work in this valuable sector.

Agriculture provides more the 22 million jobs in the United States even though less than 2 million are farmers and ranchers. The agribusiness sector contributes more than $1 trillion annually to this nation?s economy. This amounts to 15 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

There are many reasons to believe rogue governments and extremist groups might prefer to use agricultural biological weapons against the United States rather than targeting people in our nation?s cities.

First, the technology involved is less sophisticated and there is much less risk to the individuals collecting or developing the biological agents.

Crops and livestock represent ?soft targets.? They?re largely unprotected and vulnerable to attack. The likelihood of U.S. officials detecting such an attack is also low. Lastly, there are fewer quandaries for those who might hesitate to kill people randomly.

Being prepared and countering an agricultural biological attack will take a coordinated effort involving federal, state and local governments. It must also include relevant industries and this country?s research universities.

When it comes to intellectual and physical assets, Kansas has a rich history of embracing and leading innovation.

Our agricultural heritage, combined with a smart workforce, academic resources, transportation infrastructure and public and private support make Kansas well suited for the challenges of a national project focused on public health and the safety and security of our national food supply.

Kansas is ready and determined to facilitate the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense (NBAF) facility. The charge of this facility is to provide our nation with a safe, secure and innovative laboratory to develop research and response capabilities designed to protect our people and our nation?s agriculture from naturally occurring and intentionally introduced disease threats.

These facilities are safe both for the general public and laboratory researchers, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. To date there are no recorded incidents involving community contamination form any of the existing facilities in the United States.

NBAF has the potential to position Kansas as a leader in the medical, food and agricultural research, science and technology fields, say those close to the effort to bring the facility to the Sunflower State. The project could create more than 250 jobs and generate an estimated economic return of $3.5 billion during the next 20 years.

Such a facility will complement the foundation of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor, stretching from Columbia, Mo., to Manhattan/Junction City, including more than 120 animal health organizations and 13,000 specialists.

?We believe having the NBFA located with the agricultural heartland would be ideal for the region and certainly advantageous for the nation,? says Steve Baccus, Kansas Farm Bureau president.

With deep roots in agriculture, long-standing expertise in medicine and veterinary sciences, abundant technological resources, dedicated citizens and location in the center of our nation, Kansas is exceptionally well suited to be the new home for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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