AVMA advocates multimillion-dollar upgrade of USDA laboratories

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In the 1970s the three national USDA laboratories in Ames, Iowa were world-class facilities that reflected the United States' global leadership in national animal health programs.

Today, those laboratories are in a state of deterioration, posing a risk to the safe biocontainment of infectious agents. Modern technology and equipment have outgrown the laboratories, lowering operational efficiency and reducing the effectiveness of outdated safety equipment.

The Executive Board added the AVMA's voice to those endorsing the USDA 10-point plan to modernize the outdated facilities. The plan calls for USDA Appropriation Funding to modernize and consolidate the activities of these laboratories.

Over a 10-year period the renovations would cost about $379 million - a hefty price tag, but one that is still more cost effective than other proposals and would allow for continuation of essential services to the nation.

The three laboratories in question and their missions are as follows:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service's National Animal Disease Center: conducts basic and applied research on food safety and selected diseases of economic importance to the US livestock and poultry industries
  • USDA-APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratories: provides training and diagnostic laboratory testing for animal disease programs designed to protect the health of US livestock and poultry

Meeting those missions requires a state-of-the-art laboratory. The APHIS-ARS master plan would consolidate all three agencies under one roof on land near the current NADC headquarters. If Congress were to approve the measure, construction could be completed by 2010.

Two AVMA councils had asked the board to express AVMA support for this initiative. The Council on Public Health and Regulatory Veterinary Medicine "recognized the importance to the nation of maintaining the infrastructure for effective delivery of national animal health program needs."

The Council on Biologic and Therapeutic Agents, meeting recently at the Center for Veterinary Biologics, had viewed a video that described the APHIS-ARS master plan. If built according to the plan, the council noted, the facility will be a world-class site of animal disease science that attracts the best scientific minds.