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Kansas State University
128 Dole Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506
785-532-2535
media@k-state.edu
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Prepared by: Fred Cholick, dean of K-State's College of Agriculture and director of K-State Research and Extension, 785-532-7137, fcholick@k-state.edu

Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008

OP-ED: THE BENEFITS OF BRINGING NBAF TO K-STATE ARE TOO GREAT TO IGNORE

A lot has been written and read about the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF, and the possibility of it being located in Manhattan, Kan. While there has been tremendous support statewide, some Kansans may have concerns.

I have several interests in this facility: I live in Manhattan; I have a vested interest in the agricultural industry; and I've worked on food security issues at the national and local level.

My wife and I came to Manhattan three years ago and have felt welcomed by this community and by Kansans. Manhattan is important to me. I wouldn't recommend bringing into Manhattan anything that carries with it a tremendous potential for hazard. My friends, neighbors, colleagues and my family would be at risk.

Working in agriculture, I see strong benefits from this facility. There are folks in the agricultural industry who are concerned about the possibility of this facility bringing undue risk to the industry in this region. These facilities and the protocols for bringing materials and pathogens to them are built on idea of redundancy – plan for difficulties and build a system that can handle them, three times over.

The impact of agriculture in Kansas is huge. Beef cattle alone are a $6 billion industry. Dairy, swine and other livestock operations continue to grow, and I haven't even mentioned the plant side of the equation. All in all, around a quarter of all Kansans work in agriculture in one way or another. Kansas and Manhattan are literally at the heart of the industry the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility is charged with protecting.

Surveillance and the development of knowledge are key because food safety is a global issue today. The environment in which we operate today make disease -- animal, plant or otherwise -- a more mobile problem. Disease knows no borders and can often spread quicker than a wildfire, and before diagnosis. This reality is why NBAF is so important.

Research slated for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility will enable us to keep tabs on disease and develop solutions. By knowing more about agricultural disease, we are better able to protect the food supply.

K-State has recognized this need and worked to address it. From joining the Food Safety Consortium in the 1980s, to breaking ground for the $54 million Biosecurity Research Institute in 2004, K-State has demonstrated a big commitment to food safety and biosecurity. These are areas of excellence and expertise for the university.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate's Emerging Threats Subcommittee in 1999, K-State President Jon Wefald explained how the threat of agricultural biological weapons was indeed real.

When it comes to food safety, the stakes are high. The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility will help us prepare to meet today's threats head-on.

K-State's role in that defense is as a resource. Our research is leading-edge, our researchers are known globally, and our reputation is unquestionable in veterinary medicine, plant and animal sciences, and agriculture. We've already managed to create the scientific environment in which a facility like the NBAF will flourish. Further, a federal facility of this caliber would be a boon to K-State's research mission.

K-State really has an entrepreneurial spirit, which means sometimes risks are taken. We are not walking into this blindly. We have the expertise, we have the people and we have the commitment in place for this to be a success.

The benefits of the National Bio and Agro-defense facility for K-State, for the U.S. -- indeed for mankind -- cannot, and should not, be ignored.