Tester derides disease research lab as ‘boondoggle’

Senator fought to invest taxpayer dollars in immigration enforcement, firefighting

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after introducing an amendment to protect taxpayer dollars by blocking the construction of an agricultural disease research facility in Kansas’ “Tornado Alley.” Tester’s measure, which did not receive enough votes to pass the Senate Appropriations Committee, would have invested the funds in stronger immigration enforcement and firefighter assistance:

“The price tag of this boondoggle has already tripled, and in a time of tight budgets, it makes no sense to waste taxpayer dollars to build an agricultural disease research facility right in the middle of Tornado Alley, the heart of our livestock industry. Investing these critical resources in immigration enforcement and fighting fires – two of our nation’s most pressing issues – is the smarter, more fiscally responsible path.”

Tester is a long-time opponent of the Homeland Security Department’s plans to relocate the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to a site in Kansas near thousands of head of cattle that is frequently hit by dangerous tornadoes. He previously questioned department head Janet Napolitano about the costs of the move and forced the department to further study the issue.

Tester’s amendment would have eliminated funding for the new facility while increasing investments in immigration enforcement and aid to fire departments nationwide.

Tester added language to 2009 legislation that required the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the Department of Homeland Security’s safety analysis and response plan in case of an accidental release of a contagious livestock disease at the facility.

The report estimated the probability of a disease outbreak from the proposed Kansas facility at nearly 70 percent over the next 50 years. Although the plans for the building have recently been changed to reduce the risk of an outbreak, the NAS estimated that an accidental or intentional release of foot-and-mouth disease from the facility could cause up to $50 billion in economic loss to the nation’s livestock industry.

The Department of Homeland Security recently estimated that the cost of building the facility has increased from around $400 million to $1.2 billion.

Tester sought to add his amendment to a Senate Appropriations Committee funding bill.