TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Advocates for the National Agro-Biodefense Facility met at the statehouse Tuesday to discuss the status of the project.
The new NBAF Steering Committee held its first annual meeting in Topeka as members continue to fight for funding for construction of the federal lab in Manhattan that would conduct research on deadly plant and animal pathogens.
"We’re going to run through an update on where we are with NBAF. We have all the stakeholders from the federal elected officials to the state elected officials to the folks out at NBAF and K-State, higher education reps- we’re all going to get an update and see who’s doing what and what we need to be working on," said Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins from Kansas' 2nd District.
"The objective of this meeting is to provide an update regarding the current status and the progress already achieved regarding NBAF. From the first, I would like to point out that NBAF has been very unique especially in today’s environment. It has truly been bipartisan- three Democratic governors and people on the other side of the aisle in Washington that I’ve contacted are very strongly for this effort to safeguard our nation’s food supply," added Senator Pat Roberts.
A study on NBAF presented to the steering committee Tuesday found that five years of construction on the facility would cost $600 million, would pump $817 million into the state economy and would create more than 1300 construction jobs per year.
This past February, President Obama recommended that no additional funding be allocated for construction of the NBAF complex in his federal spending plan. On May 16, 2012, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved $75 million for construction. They also told the Department of Homeland Security to complete a funding plan for the site.
"I’m optimistic that we’re going to keep moving forward and keep the project on track and keep it on the time frame that we all had anticipated but it has proven to be a little heavier lift than what we had originally planned. With politics, people are going to play games with the funding but it’s a high priority of this administration, of the prior administration, it’s a priority of members of Congress so it’ll just take a little bit of extra work but we’ll get it done... The president didn’t have any funding for NBAF this year but we have secured $75 million in the House appropriations bill which should go to the floor perhaps as early as next week and we’re feeling confident about the language in the house bill. Now of course it still has a long way to go. This senate last year didn’t put anything in their appropriations bill for NBAF so we had to conference on it and continue to push which I would anticipate we’ll do again this year,' Jenkins told 13 News Tuesday.
"I have no greater priority. In Kansas, NBAF will benefit our farmers, our ranchers, our bioscience research and development throughout our animal health corridor… But most importantly, NBAF ensures our nation remains save from the threat of terrorist attack and the intentional introduction of a deadly pathogen to our vital yet vulnerable food and agriculture supply. That threat still exists. Our nation’s top defense officials have reminded Congress and the nation time and again that the state of our economy is a national security priority. Should an outbreak take place amidst our livestock, the devastation to our nation’s agriculture, the backbone our nation’s economy, would be pandemic. If jobs are the issue today, quite frankly, NBAF means a lot of construction, a lot of jobs as well as safeguarding our nation’s food supply," Roberts said during the meeting.