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In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security announced plans to replace the old Plum Island Animal Disease Center off Long Island with a facility on the U.S. mainland to study Foot and Mouth Disease and other dangerous pathogens. Kansas won the job in 2008, with a site on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan.But today, more than three years later, the proposed $1.14 billion National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility faces funding obstacles, safety questions, rising costs and political fallout. For Kansas and the Midwest, the stakes couldn’t be higher.Here you’ll find coverage and updates from Harvest Public Media, KCUR and Kansas Public Media.

Another New Report To Shed Light On NBAF's Future

The proposed NBAF lab at in Manhattan, Kan., would guard the nation's food supply against diseases like bird flu and Mad Cow disease.
Harvest Public Media
The proposed NBAF lab at in Manhattan, Kan., would study ways to guard the nation's food supply against diseases like bird flu and Mad Cow disease.

The future of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan is under the microscope this week for the second time in just over a month.

Amid mushrooming costs and persistent questions about safety, The National Research Council will issue a report on Friday. The highly anticipated study will evaluate whether the proposed Biosafety Level 4 lab should move forward as planned.

The NRC, part of the National Academies of Science,  was asked to study three possibilities:

  • whether the NBAF should go forward as planned;
  • whether a smaller, less expensive version of the proposal would be adequate; and
  • whether the whole thing should be scrapped. Under this scenario, the lab would remain at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, where it is currently located. Additional research on large animals would be outsourced to labs in other countries.

The study was requested by the Department of Homeland Security, which would have jurisdiction over the lab.  DHS undersecretary Tara O’Toole said earlier this year that the growing cost of the proposed lab may not be justified in light of other DHS priorities. Cost estimates for the NBAF started at $415 million more than five years ago and have escalated to $1.1 billion.
An NRC report earlier this month found current design plans did not ensure the safety and security of the NBAF.

The Kansas delegation in Washington, as well as state and Kansas State University officials, vow the project will be built on the K-State campus. Ground has been broken on the site, but construction stalled pending the release of funds from Congress.

For more NBAF coverage, visit KCUR's Tracking NBAF page.

Harvest Public Media, based at KCUR, is a collaborative public media project that reports on important agriculture issues in the Midwest. Funded by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Harvest Public Media has reporters at six NPR member stations in the region. To learn more, visit www.harvestpublicmedia.org, likeHarvestPublic Media on Facebook or follow @HarvestPM on Twitter.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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