UW, state speak up to keep federal livestock lab
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP)--The federal government should keep a livestock disease laboratory in Laramie and not move it to Iowa, the president of the University of Wyoming and others in the state say.
Scientists study West Nile virus, bluetongue and other diseases at the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Laboratory on the University of Wyoming campus. The lab employs about two dozen people and is the only U.S. Department of Agriculture facility with the main purpose of studying livestock diseases spread by insects, spiders and other arthropods.
President Barack Obama's recently released budget proposal calls for moving the lab to Ames, Iowa, despite an offer by UW to collaborate with the lab and share space, University of Wyoming President Tom Buchanan wrote to the Casper Star-Tribune on May 15.
"Clearly, Wyoming leaders hope that ABADRL will remain in Laramie," Buchanan wrote.
The lab has two locations in Laramie. One is in leased space at the Agriculture Department building on the university campus. The lab also has its own building near the State Veterinary Lab on the west side of town, according to Bill Gern, UW's vice president for research and economic development.
The lab had been in Laramie at least 15 and possibly 20 years, Gern said.
One problem with keeping the lab in Laramie: The facilities are old and not in great shape.
"There would need to be some repairs to the facility and they would be quite extensive," Sandy Miller Hays, spokeswoman for the USDA's Agricultural Research Service, said May 18.
The problems prompted the federal government to lower the lab's biosafety hazard rating, she said.
Hays said it's still very early to talk about moving the lab to Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University and the National Animal Disease Center. Proposals in Obama's budget won't be final for some time, she said.
"Whenever you look at considerations like this, the first thing everyone needs to remember is that this is basically the opening comment in a conversation that can go on for as long as a year," she said. "This is a long conversation."
Congress, for one, will need to weigh in on the budget proposals. Wyoming Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso both said, May 18, the lab should remain in Laramie.
"Senator Enzi has fought to keep the ABADRL lab in Laramie for many years and will continue to do so," Enzi spokeswoman Elly Pickett said by e-mail.
But that may prove difficult now that moving the lab has been "singled out" in Obama's budget, Pickett wrote.
Having the lab in Wyoming benefits the state's cattle and sheep producers, Wyoming Department of Agriculture Director Jason Fearneyhough said May 18.
"From a livestock standpoint, it's phenomenal to have a facility in the Rocky Mountain region that's dealing with diseases that obviously have an effect on our state's well-being," Fearneyhough said.
Fearneyhough said he planned to keep in touch with Buchanan and Wyoming's congressional delegation about what can be done to keep the lab in the state.