Plans for NBAF move forward with ground breaking in Manhattan

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State and Federal officials are getting their hands a little dirty – breaking ground on the national bio defense lab in Manhattan.

It’s the start of a project that could change medicines, foods; even improve the health of the country.

“This is a big day to get the ground breaking taking place,” says Governor Sam Brownback.

Shovels in hand, officials celebrate the first visual step in constructing NBAF, a laboratory expected to research the country’s most dangerous animal diseases.

“Every American would be affected if the worst were to happen and this nation was plagued by a foreign animal disease outbreak. The threat was real over a decade ago, I know, I was the chairman of the committee, and it is real today,” says U.S. Senator for Kansas, Pat Roberts.

It’s a real issue that Homeland Security officials say is constantly evolving.

“People move faster, animals cross boundaries, unintentional acts of disease spreading occur,” says Jamie Johnson with the Department of Homeland Security.

Especially those spreading from animals to humans, or zoonotic diseases.

“70% of the new diseases that come in the world today are zoonotic diseases, so this facility would not only help the animal agriculture but it would be public health,” Johnson says.

He says it will create enormous health benefits across the country. In the Manhattan area, there’s an anticipation of economic growth.

“I think we’re going to look back and see all the things that have grown up around this as we look 20 years out, we’re going to be amazed at the transformational impact that this facility is going to have on this region and this state,” says Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz.

Johnson says that economic growth is significant for the rest of the country.

“The agriculture industry is a $1 trillion industry, the investment that we’re making is an excellent return on investment to protect our food supply and our agricultural economy,” Johnson says.

The U.S. House budget committee has approved $404 million of the $714 million President Obama proposed in his budget for the lab.

Kansas legislators are still considering whether to approve an additional $202 million to complete the project.

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