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Tossed Out

Survey confirms concerns about Kansas lab

Little progress has been made at the construction site for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. (Laura Ziegler/KCUR)
Little progress has been made at the construction site for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan. (Laura Ziegler/KCUR)

A limited survey of members of the Kansas Cattlemen’s Association has found little support for building the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, Kan.

Three-fourths of the survey respondents said that they supported research on biosecurity but did not believe Manhattan – in the heart of cattle country - was the place for the federal laboratory that would research Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The extremely contagious virus that can infect cloven hooved animals; an outbreak could shut down the domestic and export livestock markets.

Brandy Carter, the association’s executive director and CEO, said only a small percentage of the group’s 2,000 members returned the survey, but she feels the vote reflects deep concern about the lab.

“If Foot and Mouth Disease gets out, it will destroy us,” Carter said in an interview.

But the survey isn’t surprising. The Kansas Cattlemen’s Association position has long favored renovating the Plum Island Animal Disease Center off the coast of New York, over building a new lab on the mainland.  Plum Island historically has been the only lab where FMD could be researched legally. 

Carter said the association will use the survey to try to recruit new members of the Kansas Legislature to work against the lab. 

Construction at the 46-acre site in Manhattan has been delayed by safety and cost concerns.

Still, the Kansas Livestock Association, which represents the cattle industry as a whole and has almost 6,000 members, wants the project to move forward. The Kansas Congressional delegation and many state senators and representatives, including Gov. Sam Brownback, also support the facility’s construction.