I attended the Annual Meeting and Professional Improvement Conference of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (that’s NACAA AM/PIC, for short) in Overland Park, KS, in August. Fortunately the temps did not soar into the 100s during our visit.
The conference offered many opportunities for participants to get tips on programs or programming strategies and methods. We also went on local tours and met local “dignitaries.” I had the opportunity to visit personally with Dr. Ron Trewyn, Vice President for Research at Kansas State University. He spoke at the general session of the first full day of the NACAA AM/PIC and focused on the rationale for supporting the siting of the National Bio- and Agro-defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, KS. K-State already is home to a new Biosecurity Research Institute (BRI) that specializes in studying foreign diseases of livestock. The NBAF would enhance their capabilities to study diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease which is currently only studied in the US at the Biosecurity Safety Level-4 Ag research facility on Plum Island (which is slated to close). Based on the pictures Dr. Trewyn showed of the BRI, it is clear the NBAF will be well-designed, exceeding nuclear plant earthquake and FEMA tornado shelter standards, and incorporates redundancy of critical systems. K-State is positioning itself as “America’s CDC for Animal Health.” Dr. Trewyn is well aware of the public relations and security issues associated with running such a facility. He shared my hope that the publicity surrounding the location of the laboratory in KS will foster better foreign animal disease preparedness at the farm level and among communities across the country.