Locating bio-defense facility in Kansas is good news

Talk about a happy holiday and a great New Year.

Kansas recently received news the Department of Home?land Security is recommending the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility be built on the Kansas State Univer?sity campus in Manhattan.

This decision will mean a $451 million federal scientific laboratory will accelerate animal disease research to protect our U.S. food supply and agricultural economy.

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

Agriculture provides more than 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.

?Farmers and cattlemen have long been asking for an acceleration of U.S. research to combat dangerous animal diseases, so we are pleased that the federal government has put that mission first in recommending Kansas as home for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility,? said Steve Baccus, Kansas Farm Bureau president and Ottawa County grain farmer.

Kansas is ready to facilitate the proposed National Bio and Agro-Defense facility. The charge of this facility will be 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.

Kansas is the wise choice because it can accelerate the NBAF?s research to protect the American food supply and agriculture economy.

There will be no learning curve in Kansas for this work. Our state can contribute immediately with our internationally recognized animal health research expertise, strong research infrastructure and unmatched concentration of animal health companies.

More important, Kansas also has a unique understanding of the importance of the NBAF research mission because of its deep agriculture heritage.

Once built, NBAF will serve as the nation?s premier research facility for developing vaccines and countermeasures for diseases that threaten livestock and other animals. Experts consider the facility an urgent national priority due to agriculture?s vulnerability to naturally occurring diseases or agro-terrorism.

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 from 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 300 jobs and generate an estimated economic return of $3.5 billion during the next 20 years.

The Kansas Congressional delegation applauded the announcement with U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts saying, ?On the merits, Kansas is the best place to conduct this much needed research to keep America?s dinner table safe. We?ve been doing this for decades, giving us a tremendous running start, and now we?re ready to get to work with the departments of Homeland Security and Agriculture to fulfill the NBAF mission.?

Having the NBAF located in the agricultural heartland will be ideal for the region and certainly advantageous for the nation.

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 farm in Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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