FROM: INDEPENDENT CATTLEMEN OF NEBRASKA, Box 241, Hyannis, NE 69350
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - July 29. 2008
ICON Opposes the Relocation of the Plum Island Research Lab
Since 1954, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center has operated on
an island off the northeast coast of Long Island, New York. Animal disease
outbreaks in Canada and Mexico spurred the U.S. Army to transfer the
land used as an army base to the Dept. of Agriculture for the study
of foot and mouth disease in cattle. It was isolated from the mainland
and able to be quarantined if a disease outbreak occurred.
Today, over 40 animal diseases are studied there, and Plum Island
scientists run about 30,000 diagnostic tests in this bio-level two and
The Department of Homeland Security took over the control of Plum
Island in 2002 and in 2004, President George W. Bush issued an executive
order to build a new facility.
The $450 million National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility is being
proposed by Homeland Security and alternative locations have been researched.
Although Plum Island is still being considered as a location, bids from
29 mainland sites were received.
Finally, five locations are seriously being considered: Athens, Ga;
Butner, N.C.; Flora, Miss.; San Antonio, Tx.; and Kansas State in Manhattan,
The Independent Cattlemen of Nebraska (ICON) believe that any improvements
should be built at Plum Island and not on the mainlandand especially
not in the Great Plains states. This is too close to home and the center
of the United States livestock industry. Although no outbreaks of the
toxic diseases ever occurred off Plum Island, it is not an issue which
can be ignored ICON officials believe.
In 2001 a foot and mouth disease outbreak occurred in Great Britain
due to lax inspection standards, which resulted in the death of hundreds
of cattle, the loss of FMD disease-status in the export market, and
millions of dollars.
In 2007, two more outbreaks of FMD occurred in Great Britain as the
result of human error at their own bio-security labs. Although the losses
were not as significant as the 2001 outbreak, export markets were closed,
cattle were restricted, and there were significant financial losses
by all involved.
I believe leaving the animal research where it is a good decision,
said Al Davis, ICON director. What if an outbreak would occur
here in the middle of cattle country? How many dollars damage would
be done to feeding livestock, breeding livestock and the nations
Kansas State officials are ecstatic with the possibility of having
a bio-level 4 facility to conduct research in right near the campus.
The new facility will also have the capability to research the planets
most caustic organisms and their effect on humans as well.
Kansas State officials are willing to take the risks involved with
locating the toxic disease facility in the middle of the United States.
They want to contribute to controlling our countrys destiny.
ICON directors are not so sure. They question if all the dangers of
working with these deadly diseases have been thoroughly investigated.
There are dangers when working with large animals; and there
is the possibility of humans carrying the virus outside the facility,
Davis said. Human error does happen and an accidental discharge
of FMD in Kansas could wipe out the entire livestock industry on the
Great Plains. Plum Island offers a natural barrier to disease and, in
addition, is a long ways from the heart of the beef industry. This issue
is just too important to be a part of the political spoils system
A decision will be made this fall by Homeland Security.