Animal Disease Diagnosis and Research Accelerates

Bush budgets $178 million for National Centers for Animal Health. John Otte

Published on: Jan 14, 2004

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced that President Bush would include $178 million in the FY 2005 budget to complete the renovation of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's new National Centers for Animal Health. The secretary made the announcement at a ceremonial ground breaking at the extensive USDA facility in Ames, Iowa, Jan. 13.

"When completed, the nearly 1 million square food center will become the most modern and best-equipped animal disease research facility in the world," Veneman says. "The work that is done here is a crucial link to the overall effort to protect animal agriculture."

Facility houses joint USDA efforts

The Ames complex is USDA's "flagship laboratory" for large animal research and diagnosis. It includes the National Animal Disease Center, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory and the Center for Veterinary Biologics. A 2001 report to Congress outlined options for updating and renovating the complex, now referred to as the USDA National Centers for Animal Health. Since that time, the Bush Administration has worked with Congress on a plan to renovate the facility.

"The request of $178 million by the President would represent the final installment of the $460 million needed to fully renovate these facilities," Veneman says. "If approved by Congress, these funds will permit us to fully complete this project by the end of 2007. We intend to use accelerated contract procedures and construction techniques to meet this schedule."

For animals, it's equivalent to Centers for Disease Control

Veneman says the facility is more important than ever before in the context of recent animal disease threats. For instance, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory conducted the initial tests to confirm the case of bovine spongiform encepholopathy, BSE, from a single cow in Washington state.

"Even though the ultimate confirmation was made in England, we had the confidence in our own experts at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in order to make an immediate announcement and respond quickly," Veneman says.

When completed, Veneman says the National Centers for Animal Health would include almost 1 million square feet of thoroughly modern facilities that will be biosafe, energy-efficient and will provide state-of-the-art capabilities for research and diagnosis. It will house in a single location a critical mass of scientists who are at the top of their fields with programs across animal disease research, diagnostics and biologics making USDA better able to respond to foreign animal diseases and bioterriorism.

Within USDA, the programs and facilities of the National Centers for Animal Health are operated by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the Agricultural Research Service.

Some statistics

The diagnostic and animal research center will employee about 600 people. Of those, about 275 will be scientists.

The facility has about 103 buildings. Most are destined for the wrecking ball.

The new complex will have about 125 animal rooms. Each room will be able to hold 3 to 5 animals, depending on size.

Diagnostic scientists at the center should be able to diagnose any animal disease within U.S. borders. Researchers for USDA's Agricultural Research Service will be working on 15 to 20 diseases at any given time.

Mission differs from Plum Island

Roughly three years ago, world livestock producers focused on Foot and Mouth Disease in Europe. Extensive work done at USDA's Plum Island, New York, Animal Disease Center helped keep FMD out of the United States.

The Plum Island facility focuses on research to keep foreign animal diseases out of the United States. Mission of the Ames, Iowa, facility is to diagnose, contain and prevent diseases within the United States.