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by jJane

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NBAF in Kansas is comforting news for U.S. food supply

As I was traveling to a meeting in Denver, Dec. 3, I received a call with preliminary news of Manhattan being named as the preferred site for the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, or NBAF. I was elated for our nation and its livestock producers, for our region, for the state of Kansas, and for the citizens of Manhattan.

I am the program chair for the Academy of Veterinary Consultants, a group of more than 700 veterinarians committed to the safe and wholesome production of beef. It was with fortuitous timing that I had organized one focus of our meeting to discuss the need and concerns of bringing NBAF to the mainland. The former director of the Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory at the Plum Island, N.Y., facility, which will be replaced by NBAF, conducted the discussion. She described the strategic need for NBAF to be located where it could attract the quality of scientists and support personnel needed, and where it would have the accessibility of diagnostic services to our livestock industry. Her discussion of the situation, and the question-answer session that followed, made a very compelling case for bringing NBAF to the mainland.

Additionally, further review of the report of the site selection committee made it obvious to me that the best possible location is Kansas.

As a third-generation Nebraska livestock producer, I will rest well knowing that the facility will be located in the Heartland. I am happy to know that world-class scientists and animal husbandry experts who are diligent in their efforts to protect us against those who would gladly harm our country through its food supply and animal resources will staff NBAF.

As a businessman, I am excited for the state of Kansas and the city of Manhattan as they make preparations to host a facility that will bring up to 1,600 construction jobs worth $180 million, generate up to $24 million in state and local taxes, and sustain 250 to 350 permanent positions with a payroll of $27 million to $30 million annually. This is a gold-star opportunity for all involved. High-quality jobs and tax revenues will benefit many levels of the community with direct and indirect levels of support. I expect schools, churches, main street business, the state's livestock producers and the state's citizens to benefit.

As a veterinarian and scientist, I am more comfortable about the future of our nation's food supply knowing that we have a new plan in place and that the plan will soon have a home in Kansas. Infectious disease agents can be ravaging, but they are not magic. Our challenges lie in obtaining the most complete understanding possible of the infectious agents of national security interest. Our opportunities for a safer future lie in our ability to learn more about the risks we face, to educate those involved, and continue to develop procedures and technologies that mitigate risks posed by our enemies. I believe that these opportunities will be realized most completely, most efficiently and most securely in Manhattan.

In closing, I offer a note of congratulations to all involved. I realize that although the final recommendation must still be confirmed, it would appear that careful research, investigation, planning and diligence have won the day.

I am aware of the high level of cooperation that has been demonstrated by the state of Kansas, the city of Manhattan and Kansas State University administration and faculty. My wife and I travel to Manhattan frequently to attend ball games and to visit our two daughters who are students at K-State. I also appreciate what appears to be near overwhelming support of the community and the livestock industry. In my opinion, you have chosen wisely and put your trust in people, processes and science that are trustworthy. I truly believe that NBAF will be good for Manhattan and the surrounding region. NBAF in Kansas will be good for our country.

--Dr. Kelly F. Lechtenberg, Ph.D., president of Midwest Veterinary Services Inc., and Logan Valley Feeders Inc., Oakland, Neb.

4 Star NE\4-B

Date: 12/30/08

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