Cattlemen’s group opposes disease lab

US - One of the state’s largest farm associations has come out against a plan to build a huge animal disease research lab in Columbia.
calendar icon 6 July 2007
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The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, which represents 68,000 beef producers, decided late last month to oppose building the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility here.

"As more facts became clear and became available, there were some potential risks that presented themselves," said Jeff Windett, the cattlemen’s group’s executive vice president. "From a beef industry standpoint here in Missouri, we thought it was too big of a risk."

The lab is proposed for a 100-acre tract in southeast Columbia off of New Haven Road. The University of Missouri-Columbia is spearheading the effort to bring the facility to town. Columbia is one of 17 sites around the country competing for the lab.

The 500,000-square-foot facility would be equipped to study the most dangerous and exotic diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease, Rift Valley fever and Nipah virus.

Some of the diseases have decimated cattle populations in other parts of the world and even infected herds in this country in the past. Windett said studying the diseases in Columbia is not a good idea, given that Missouri is the nation’s second-biggest cattle state, with about 2 million head of cattle.

"We are in support of research. We are in support of finding cures, whether it be for livestock or humans," Windett said. "We just think the risk of putting it where they proposed in the state of Missouri was too much of a risk."

Despite the cattlemen’s opposition, the push to bring the facility to Columbia still has support from other agriculture and animal groups. The Missouri Pork Association sent a letter backing the facility in March 2006. Executive Vice President Don Nikodim said the support still stands.

"Irregardless of sighting, a high-level biosecurity facility is needed to study and get a handle on those" diseases "in as rapid of time as possible," Nikodim said.

Likewise, last year the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association wrote that it had "enthusiastic support" for the proposed lab. Some of the association’s members work with sick livestock. The executive director said this morning that the veterinary association still wants the lab in Missouri.

Source: Columbia Daily Tribune
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