National Pork Producers Council President Barb Determan praised Congressman Tom Latham (R-Iowa) for securing $40 million to begin plans to overhaul the national facility for USDA Animal Health in Ames, Iowa. Latham, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, inserted the funds in the Agriculture Appropriations bill at a subcommittee hearing. The full committee will consider the bill this week on its way to the House Floor.

The Ames center includes Agricultural Research Service's National Animal Disease Center, the APHIS National Veterinary Services Laboratory andthe APHIS Center for Veterinary Biologics. About $9 million was provided byCongress to begin the modernization process in FY2001. No money was included for the project in this year's USDA budget, pending the completionof a study of the project mandated by Congress.

In a letter to lawmakers sent last week, NPPC urged that up to $50 million this year to begin substantial work toward the renovation or replacement of these critical animal surveillance and diagnostic facilities.

"Without this new laboratory facility the U.S. will fail to provide the level of animal disease protection necessary to protect the $107 billion livestock industryfrom emerging diseases,” says Determan. A new facility also would help ensure that systems are in place to respond to disease outbreaks, such as those faced in Europeand help the industry produce healthy livestock, which is fundamental to asafe food supply for the American public."

A study of the Ames project was released on May 25. In an attached letter,Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman strongly recommends that Congress providethe necessary funding to modernize the Ames research facility. Venemanwrote, "There is an urgent need to renovate and modernize the existingfacilities. Grossly debilitated and inadequate for animal health programs ofhigh national priority, these facilities must be modernized."

The report highlights four options for the project, but does not specify anUSDA preference. The four options include:

1) The original 10-year plan – $439.9 million

2) An accelerated 6-year plan – $430 million

3) Phasing in of critical agency needs over 10 years – $451.6 million

4) Independent agency modernization over 10 years – $547.7 million

NPPC supports the accelerated option of building the joint facilities in six years at a cost of only $430 million.

National Pork Producers Council