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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.

Construction To Finally Begin On Lab Portion Of National Bio And Agro-Defense Facility

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Laura Ziegler
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KCUR

A newly appointed official with the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF, said Thursday the facility’s main laboratory will be under construction within a month at the site in Manhattan, Kansas.

Marty Vanier told the Agriculture Business Council of Kansas City the release of several million dollars in funds from Washington finalized the federal government’s commitment, allowing The Department of Homeland Security to move forward with the lab.

The state of Kansas has committed more than $300 million in state funds.

“I can tell you there will be a number of events in the very near future where we’ll open the gates and let shovels go," Vanier said. "There will be changes before the new football season.”

The $1.25 billion project has suffered a number of setbacks over the years. The BSL4 bio-containment facility will study some of the most dangerous and contagious pathogens in the world.

Some worry about the risk of building the lab in the shadow of university buildings like the Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium. Ranchers are concerned about a potential release of the virus that causes foot-and-mouth disease. While the virus isn’t harmful to humans, it is extremely contagious among livestock. If released, the disease could cause the destruction of thousands, if not millions of animals.

Vanier says DHS has vetted the lab's security multiple times in the design phase, and will spend two years testing systems before any research begins. But she said it is impossible to eliminate risk.

“Risk is part of living,” she said. “But we will be doing everything possible to eliminate that risk in our efforts to protect the health of livestock and agriculture in America.”

The Department of Homeland Security finalized its award of NBAF to the state of Kansas in 2009. The lab is designed to replace the 1950s Plum Island Animal Disease Lab off the coast of New York.

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