Tom Vilsack reiterates need for NBAF project

Tom Vilsack, the U.S. agriculture secretary, said on Tuesday that the construction of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility should move forward and that it is important to ensure a safe and adequate food supply.

Vilsack spoke about the facility on Tuesday after a Landon Lecture, Associated Press reports.

Kansas was awarded the project in 2010 to replace an aging USDA facility at Plum Island, N.Y. with a brand new $650 million research facility near Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. The lab would hold research on deadly agricultural pathogens.

The proposed 2013 federal budget does not contain funding for the NBAF's construction and calls for a reassessment by the Department of Homeland Security. The budget does include $10 million to start transferring some research from the old facility to Kansas State's Biosecurity Research Institute.

"We're going to continue to work with members of Congress to figure out how and when, with difficult and tight budgets, we can fund this," Vilsack said, according to Associated Press.

Critics of the facility have said that moving research of this kind to the mainland could put the food supply and security of the nation at risk. Vilsack said that a new risk assessment report puts the chance of releasing a deadly animal pathogen such as foot-and-mouth disease at one tenth of a percent.

The National Academy of Sciences will hold a public hearing on Friday in Washington to discuss the NBAF.