Tester: Halt construction of ag disease research lab

Senator concerned by ‘unnecessary cost and risks’

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is calling on the Department of Homeland Security to halt construction of an agricultural disease research lab until security concerns are addressed and Congress approves any needed funding.

The Department is planning to relocate the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to a site in Kansas near thousands of head of cattle. The area is frequently hit by dangerous tornadoes. An accidental release of Foot and Mouth Disease from the facility could cost producers as much as $50 billion.

Due to Tester’s long-standing concerns about moving the facility to Kansas, the federal government did not request new funding for construction earlier this year while the Homeland Security Department fully assesses the facility’s safety risks and any related costs.

Tester, who previously called into question the government’s plan to spend as much as $1 billion in taxpayer money to move the facility, is now making sure the Department doesn’t move forward without Congress’ stamp of approval.

“Given the lingering concerns and ever-increasing costs associated with the proposed facility, I strongly urge the department to allow Congress to fully consider the ramifications of these decisions,” Tester told Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. “When the government is tightening its belt, we simply cannot throw taxpayer dollar after taxpayer dollar in support of a bad decision.”

Tester previously added language to 2009 legislation that required an improved safety analysis and response plan in case of an accidental release of a contagious livestock disease at the facility.

The analysis estimated the probably of a disease outbreak from the proposed Kansas facility at nearly 70 percent over the next 50 years.


Tester’s letter to Napolitano