Bennet Introduces Bill to help Ranchers Combat Animal-Borne Illnesses, Protect Public Health

Will Support Disease Surveillance Activities at CSU

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced a bill to provide a more stable flow of resources for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which monitors animal-borne illnesses that pose significant threats to animal and public health, such as mad cow disease and foot-and-mouth disease. The Animal and Public Health Protection Act creates a unique funding authorization for NAHLN, which will help protect the network against the uncertainty of Congress’ yearly budgeting process.

“Livestock production sits at the heart of Colorado’s $40 billion agriculture sector,” Bennet, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said. “Labs, like the ones at CSU, help support the economic vitality of our livestock industry and protect the public by identifying diseases early and preventing the consequences of potentially devastating outbreaks. This commonsense, yet vital, research yields tremendous economic and public health benefits to Colorado and the entire country.”

“The proper funding authorization for the NAHLN is critical so that states, including Colorado with its NAHLN member laboratory, Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratories, can protect their agriculture industries from emerging and foreign animal diseases that can cause economic devastation, and also address our nation’s need for a safe, stable and nutritious food supply by protection of not only animal health, but public health,” said Barbara Powers, Director of Colorado State University Diagnostic Laboratories.

Due to the high volume of livestock production in Colorado and regionally, the potential economic and health-related damages to industry and the public from an animal-borne illness outbreak is enormous. To help prevent such an outbreak, Colorado State University (CSU) houses one of the core member laboratories in the NAHLN. State and university laboratories in the NAHLN—including CSU—perform diagnostic tests for animal diseases as well as targeted surveillance and response testing for foreign animal diseases. The labs within the network share information with other labs and public health officials.

At the federal level, the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) coordinates activities and validates the methods used by participating laboratories. It provides training and materials for diagnostic tests and serves as the national veterinary diagnostic reference and confirmatory laboratory.

With the Senate Agriculture Committee preparing to consider the 2013 Farm Bill in the coming weeks, Bennet will urge the Committee to include the Animal and Public Health Protection Act in Farm Bill.

The bill is supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association.

NAHLN is a cooperative effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.