Tester warns of moving ag disease lab to ‘Tornado Alley’

Senator’s measure will require threat analyses of moving isolated facility to Kansas

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today outlined his concerns over moving the nation’s top agriculture disease research lab from an isolated island to “the middle of Tornado Alley” in Kansas.

The National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility currently conducts research on dangerous livestock illnesses such as Foot-and-Mouth Disease at a secure facility on Plum Island, N.Y.

Tester, a Montana farmer, opposes a plan to move the facility to Kansas because of the risk to not only Montana’s $1.5 billion per year livestock industry, but to livestock and poultry industries throughout rural America.

So he included in the Senate Homeland Security Appropriations Act a measure requiring the government to conduct two threat analyses of moving the facility to “the heart of the beef belt.”

“We should not start doing this research on the U.S. mainland and in the middle of Tornado Alley without taking every possible precaution,” Tester said today on the Senate floor.  “On a matter this serious, we ought to measure twice and cut once.”

Tester noted that the Government Accountability Office, Congress’s non-partisan, independent auditor, “sounded the alarm” on the safety of moving the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility.

A report last year by the Government Accountability Office found that “Homeland Security has not conducted or commissioned any study to determine whether Foot-and-Mouth Disease work can be done safely on the U.S. mainland.”

Tester also said he expects the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to request $500 million this spring to help fund the move.  He added he will “be watching it closely” because the cost of a disease outbreak could be much higher.

“The cost of cleaning up after a Foot-and-Mouth Disease release—the culling of entire herds of livestock, the loss of foreign agriculture sales that will endure for years after a release, and the loss of America’s food security—will be measured in the tens of billions,” Tester said.

The Homeland Security Appropriations Act passed the U.S. Senate Tuesday with a vote of 79 to 19.  It now goes to the President to be signed into law.