Mysterious animal research that has long gone on at Plum Island is supposed to be transferred to a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility to be built in the middle of cattle country in Manhattan, KS.
But a criminal inquiry into a group credited with attracting the bio-defense facility to Kansas has prompted the feisty Montana-based R-CALF United Stockgrowers of America to suggest the federal government call the whole thing off.
Bill Bullard, chief executive officer for the cattlemen’s group, in a recent letter to Homeland Security’s Secretary Janet Napolitano, accused her department of the “strong likelihood of corruption” in selecting Kansas as a location for the bio defense facility.
In a separate letter to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-LA, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee for Homeland Security, Bullard asks the Senate “to strike from the federal budget all funding for the proposed National Bio-and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF)” and to investigate the extent to which the KBA may have influenced DHS’ decision to locate the NBAF in Manhattan, Kansas and “expose our U.S. cattle herd to a heightened risk.”
KBA is the Kansas Bioscience Authority, which was instrumental in getting Manhattan selected as the location for the yet-to-be constructed bio-defense facility. Congress just approved the first $40 million for construction.
There is another $150 million for the lab in President Obama’s new budget, with the final cost expected to reach $650 million by completion in 2018. Kansas is going to benefit from 1,500 construction jobs and economic spinoffs that might be worth as much as $3 billion.
That’s why the Kansas bioscience promotional group wanted the state named as the location for the new lab, but KBA may have gone too far. The Johnson County District Attorney has opened a criminal investigation into something involving KBA.
The criminal investigation is only the latest move by Kansas officials to exert more oversight over the group. Gov. Sam Brownback and the Kansas Legislature have sent legions of auditors over to KBA to go over its books.
But it’s the criminal investigation that is getting attention outside of Kansas.
Bullard’s letter to Napolitano returns to arguments that were made about the Kansas site prior to its selection in late 2009. There is a high likelihood — a 70 percent chance according to one study — that viruses such as foot-and-mouth disease could be released into the environment in the lab’s vicinity.
That would jeopardize animal agriculture in the area, a $9 to $50 billion industry.
Bullard claims “unadulterated corruption” facilitated by Homeland Security is exposing the U.S. livestock industry “to unnecessary and avoidable risk that would threaten the safety and security of our national meat supply.”
While there has been plenty of public confirmation that a criminal probe of KBA is underway, no one has said if it involves the group’s campaign to land the bio security facility.
KBA is an independent entity of the state of Kansas, formed in 2004. Its purpose is to attract federal support and build world-class research facilities in the Sun Flower State.
Gov. Brownback says the entity needs more oversight and more direct involvement by Kansas university officials.
As for the government’s need to conduct mysterious animal research, the effort to build the NABF anywhere on the mainland, let alone in the heart of cattle country, is getting precious little public attention.
While the Plum Island research facility, located off Long Island, NY, was a USDA unit for most of its existence, it’s now part of Homeland Security. The 1999 book, “Lab 257,” by Michael C. Carroll, Ph.D, alleged that the Plum Island Animal Disease Center was connected to the spread of Dutch duck plague in 1967, Lyme disease in 1975, and West Nile virus in 1999.
For many years, everyone agreed such mysterious animal research was best conducted off shore.