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FROM: INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN OF NEBRASKA, Box 241, Hyannis, NE 69350 Phone: 308-282-2826


ICON Opposes the Relocation of the Plum Island Research Lab

Since 1954, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center has operated on an island off the northeast coast of Long Island, New York. Animal disease outbreaks in Canada and Mexico spurred the U.S. Army to transfer the land used as an army base to the Dept. of Agriculture for the study of foot and mouth disease in cattle. It was isolated from the mainland and able to be quarantined if a disease outbreak occurred.

Today, over 40 animal diseases are studied there, and Plum Island scientists run about 30,000 diagnostic tests in this bio-level two and three facility.

The Department of Homeland Security took over the control of Plum Island in 2002 and in 2004, President George W. Bush issued an executive order to build a new facility.

The $450 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is being proposed by Homeland Security and alternative locations have been researched. Although Plum Island is still being considered as a location, bids from 29 mainland sites were received.

Finally, five locations are seriously being considered: Athens, Ga; Butner, N.C.; Flora, Miss.; San Antonio, Tx.; and Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas.

The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) believe that any improvements should be built at Plum Island and not on the mainland—and especially not in the Great Plains states. This is too close to home and the center of the United States livestock industry. Although no outbreaks of the toxic diseases ever occurred off Plum Island, it is not an issue which can be ignored ICON officials believe.

In 2001 a foot and mouth disease outbreak occurred in Great Britain due to lax inspection standards, which resulted in the death of hundreds of cattle, the loss of FMD disease-status in the export market, and millions of dollars.

In 2007, two more outbreaks of FMD occurred in Great Britain as the result of human error at their own bio-security labs. Although the losses were not as significant as the 2001 outbreak, export markets were closed, cattle were restricted, and there were significant financial losses by all involved.

“I believe leaving the animal research where it is a good decision,” said Al Davis, ICON director. “What if an outbreak would occur here in the middle of cattle country? How many dollars damage would be done to feeding livestock, breeding livestock and the nation’s food supply?”

Kansas State officials are ecstatic with the possibility of having a bio-level 4 facility to conduct research in right near the campus. The new facility will also have the capability to research the planet’s most caustic organisms and their effect on humans as well.

Kansas State officials are willing to take the risks involved with locating the toxic disease facility in the middle of the United States. They want to contribute to controlling our country’s destiny.

ICON directors are not so sure. They question if all the dangers of working with these deadly diseases have been thoroughly investigated.

“There are dangers when working with large animals; and there is the possibility of humans carrying the virus outside the facility,” Davis said. “Human error does happen and an accidental discharge of FMD in Kansas could wipe out the entire livestock industry on the Great Plains. Plum Island offers a natural barrier to disease and, in addition, is a long ways from the heart of the beef industry. This issue is just too important to be a part of the political spoils system” Davis finished.

A decision will be made this fall by Homeland Security.



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