September 10, 2009

Stop Funding for Plum Island in the Heartland.

Some of you may recall about a year ago I wrote about our governments plan to move hoof and mouth disease research facilities from an isolated island lab to a lab in the middle of an agricultural region. You can read that post HERE, it will give you a background of this issue, provide some informational links and tell you why I think this is such a bad idea.
Today the proposed site is Manhattan, Kansas, which happens to be smack dab in the heart of cattle country. Posted below is some more recent news from R-CALF USA about the Plum Island animal disease research facility and the foolish idea of building a new research facility, not only on the main land but in an agricultural area with a dense population of livestock. To listen to a short audio clip from R-CALF about this, Click Here.
For me as a farmer and a resident of the state in which our government wants to locate this facility it is in my humble opinion that I don't care how much money is thrown at this issue or how many D.C. bigwigs swear by its safety while they sit behind their desks far away from America's farms and ranches and the people that could be affected by this decision; the fact of the matter is nobody can 100% guarantee there won't be an accident. One of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in Britain was from a research facility. Here is another news article about FMD outbreaks in the UK.

I do understand this could bring money and some jobs to our state, but even as bad as Kansas needs the jobs it just is not worth the risk. Someone has to draw the line somewhere about just what we as a country are willing to risk for an extra buck or an extra job. If you feel like I do, I encourage you to contact your US Senators through and tell them to draw a line for our farmers and ranchers by improving or building their new facility on Plum Island where it has been for years and denying funding specifically for plans to relocate Plum Island animal research facility to the mainland. I do believe animal disease research is very important and should be fully funded but only in a logical place like Plum Island, not a stone's throw from many of America's farms, ranches and feedlots.

Coalition Asks Homeland Security Approps Committees

to Deny Funding for NBAF on U.S. Mainland

Washington, D.C. – R-CALF USA, along with 24 other organizations, sent formal correspondence to the 30 conferees of the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, to request that they deny funding for plans to relocate dangerous research from Plum Island, N.Y., to a facility in Manhattan, Kan., the heart of cattle country.

“Specifically, the Department of Homeland Security has proposed to establish a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Kansas where research would be conducted on such highly contagious livestock diseases as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and contagious bovine pleuropneumonia,” the letter states. “As you begin to conference the FY2010 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, we urge you to deny funding for the NBAF project.”

R-CALF USA President/Region VI Director Max Thornsberry, a Missouri veterinarian who also chairs the group’s animal health committee, emphasized that the highly contagious nature of FMD dictates that only a site far removed from significant livestock and meat production, and one protected by natural barriers, should be considered.

“Only the Plum Island facility meets those criteria, so it is R-CALF’s strong contention that if any changes are made at all, those changes should be simply to improve the facilities at Plum Island,” Thornsberry said. “An inadvertent disease outbreak from the proposed NBAF would likely severely harm the very sectors of the U.S. economy and U.S. population that the NBAF is supposed to protect: the U.S. livestock herd, U.S. cattle producers and U.S. consumers.

“The House of Representatives acknowledged the dangers of placing a research facility in the heartland and it authorized no funding for the NBAF in Kansas,” he concluded. “We are respectfully requesting that the Senate adopt the House position by denying all appropriations to Homeland Security for the purpose of transferring the disease research programs at Plum Island to the U.S. mainland.”

Other signers on the letter included: Cattle Producers of Washington; Center for Rural Affairs; Colorado Independent CattleGrowers’ Association; Dakota Resource Council; Dakota Rural Action; Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance; Food & Water Watch; Independent Beef Association of North Dakota; Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska; Independent Cattlemen of Wyoming; Kansas Cattlemen’s Association; Kansas Farmers Union; Mississippi Livestock Markets Association; Missouri's Best Beef, Inc.; National Farmers Union; Nebraska Farmers Union; New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association; New Mexico Federal Lands Council; Oregon Livestock Producers Association; Ozarks Property Rights Congress, Mo.; South Dakota Stockgrowers Association; The CJD Foundation; Western Organization of Resource Councils; and, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.

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R-CALF USA (Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the continued profitability and viability of the U.S. cattle industry. R-CALF USAU.S.R-CALF USA directors and committee chairs are extremely active unpaid volunteers. R-CALF USA has dozens of affiliate organizations and various main-street businesses are associate members. For more information, visit represents thousands of cattle producers on trade and marketing issues. Members are located across 47 states and are primarily cow/calf operators, cattle backgrounders, and/or feedlot owners. or, call 406-252-2516.


The Blonde Duck said...

Popped in from SITS! I know this is a serious topic, but I love that picture!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing!


Pricilla said...

I read about this in the paper as well and erm, putting a facility like that in tornado alley. Uh, what ARE they thinking?!

Rose said...

As someone who works in animal research I can only say that the protection from an outbreak is only as strong as the regulations that are in place to stop the occurence of an outbreak. In reality the regulations and laws regarding the prevention of outbreaks from high level facilities are so stringent that only gross misconduct and deliberate actions would lead to a serious outbreak in the general cattle population. These animals are not in a pasture situation and never have contact with external animals, pests, or people that could spread the disease. I would hate to see funding stopped on such an important issue because of irrational fears that an outbreak could happen. If fears like that were always allowed to dictate the direction of research then no one would ever research tuberculosis or flu or AIDS because of fear of a possible outbreak.

Jennifer said...

Thanks for commenting Pricilla, that is a point that has been brought up before.

Hi Rose, thank you for commenting. I really appreciate your point of view, especially since you do have experience in animal research.

You have some very valid points but I do have to disagree that concern over an animal disease getting out of the facility is not irrational because it has happened before. It has happened in England and according to the information from R-CALF it has happened on Plum Island, though I could be wrong about that one. (and that is the reason the England outbreak was the only one brought up in this post) So hardly irrational when this has happened in the past with other research facilities.

I also think you might have misunderstood that I do NOT want all funding for animal disease research to be stopped. Heck no I don't, this is very important research and deserves to be fully funded...ON PLUM ISLAND. I believe the facilities at Plum Island should be upgraded if not an entire new facility build on the island, but certainly not on the mainland, in the middle of the country, in tornado alley in one of the most livestock densely populated areas of the country.

Just to be clear I do NOT believe funding for important disease research should be stopped but I DO believe state grants and moneys to move the facility to the heart of cattle country should be stopped dead in its tracks and I probably should have been more clear on that point in my post. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

This site,, makes a good case for why research should be conducted in Kansas.

Mary said...

I knew about the island, and I knew what types of things they were researching at the facility, and how disasterous it would be if it were ever moved inland...and here we are talking about it. It seems to never end, the odd decisions that are made.

When the government steps in, when there is an outbreak, we lose control of testing and the destroying of our animals. And, being that we have not had an outbreak, why do anything to even come close to putting us in a huge risk factor? It does not make sense to me.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for the link Anonymous, I wish you would have signed your name so I could thank you in person.

I read quite a bit of that blog and while I do appreciate that this will be a state of the art facility it nags in my mind that the facility in Britain was probably also proclaimed to be one at one time also. I also certainly appreciate that KS could use the 36 million that will be put into this project. There is no denying that.

I do continue to question the wisdom in bringing for example Foot-and-Mouth disease to the mainland of a country that has been free of it since 1929. I have not changed my mind yet, especially considering that in 2001 the UK killed more than seven million sheep and cattle to gain control of a FMD outbreak. What an economic disaster for that country. I will however certainly read more on your blog. Thank you very much for the information.

For anyone interested in learning more about FMD here is a link.

Jennifer said...

Thank you Mary for your comment! I am also trying to make sense of this proposal.

Callie said...

These people are not dealing with reality. It doesn't make sense.