Senate passes Tester’s amendment to protect America’s cattle ranchers

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Late last night, the United State Senate passed an amendment by Senator Jon Tester to halt the construction of a research facility due to safety concerns for America’s cattle ranchers.

The fiscal year 2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill includes money to build a new National Bio and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas. The new facility would house research labs for various animal and livestock diseases, including a foot and mouth disease (FMD) laboratory.

Tester’s amendment delays construction of the new facility until the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) researches the site and studies the potential effect of researching highly contagious animal diseases in the heart of America’s cattle country.  The amendment also requires DHS to begin establishing a regional response plan in the event of an accidental release of FMD.

 “Senator Tester’s action will ensure a more thorough and careful evaluation of risks before dangerous disease pathogens are moved to a research facility where even an accidental release could threaten the health of our cattle herds and our domestic food production,” said Bill Bullard, CEO of R-CALF USA. “The cattle herds in Montana and across the U.S. are cared for and managed by hundreds of thousands of family farmers and ranchers who strive to produce the healthiest cattle in the world so consumers can enjoy a safe and secure food supply.”

“The safety of our food supply and the health of our livestock industry is at stake. We can’t move the biggest disease threat to cattle right to the heart of cattle country without taking every precaution,” Tester said. “This is just common sense and I’ll keep fighting to make sure the folks in Washington realize the potential impact moving the research lab could have on ranchers across this country. ”

Foot and mouth disease is the most highly contagious animal livestock disease known. Research on FMD is currently conduced on Plum Island off the coast of New York state. Experts believe that the island location adds an additional level of protection to limit the spread of the disease should an outbreak occur.