Cattlemen end support for biolab

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:29 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

A state cattle producing organization has withdrawn its support of the National Bio- and Agro- Defense Facility without waiting to hear if Columbia would still be on the U.S. government’s apparently delayed list of finalists.

On June 20, the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association board of directors voted to withdraw its letter of support for the lab.

Jeff Windett, the executive vice president of the Missouri Cattlemen’s Association, said after learning more about the lab, the organization decided the lab was too much of a risk.

“In the beginning, there was very little data,” he said. “At the time it looked like it was a good thing for the state until we looked close at what was going to be involved.”

Spokesmen for the Department of Homeland Security had said they would release a list narrowing down the 17 possible sites to three to five sites by July 1. But the list has not yet been released, and calls made Monday to the Department of Homeland Security were not returned.

The lab, which could be located off New Haven Road, would study diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease and classical swine fever. The diseases potentially to be studied at the lab have some residents worried about their safety.

Windett said a breach in security at the lab would put the cattle producers’ livelihoods in jeopardy.

“We think it should be located in a more desolate area, from a human and a livestock perspective,” he said.

The proposed location would be very close to a major thoroughfare where cattle are transported, Windett said.

“If there was a breach in security, with those diseases it would have a devastating effect, not only on Missouri but on the states around us,” he said.

The association sent the letter withdrawing its support to the Department of Homeland Security, the UM System Board of Curators and the governor last week.

The Missouri Pork Association also wrote a letter of support for the lab in March 2006, but has not withdrawn its support.

Executive Vice President Don Nikodim said the organization supported looking into the concept of withdrawing its support but has not followed up on that recommendation.

“We wanted to support looking into the possibility,” he said.

Other letters of support were submitted by the mayor and Boone County commissioners, who previously said they would look at more information before ultimately deciding whether to support the lab.

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