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Ag boss here for April talk

By The Mercury

One of the central figures in the debate over funding for the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility will be at K-State in April.

University officials said Friday that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has agreed to deliver a Landon Lecture at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 10, in McCain Auditorium. Although the NBAF is a Department of Homeland Security facility, it is to be operated in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture.

Just last week, following President Barack Obama’s decision not to include funding for the NBAF in his 2013 budget, Vilsack acknowledged the continued need for the facility during questioning by Sen. Pat Roberts.

Vilsack’s Landon appearance was not arranged specifically in response to concerns about NBAF funding, although the issue is likely to be raised during his time on campus.

“We’re excited to bring Secretary Vilsack to Kansas State University,” said Jackie Hartman, university chief of staff, director of community relations and chair of the Landon Lecture Series. “As head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, he guides the nation’s efforts in food safety and security and animal health—all areas in which Kansas State University is a recognized national and international research and outreach leader.”

At Senate hearings Wednesday, Vilsack told Roberts he agreed with the senator’s contention that construction of the NBAF remains vital to national security. He said the facility “is critical for us in terms of being able to identify problems and being able to accurately analyze the extent of the problem.”

He was less committed, however, to a specific construction time frame, telling Roberts “My hope is we can find a way to get this built at some point.”

Vilsack was named the nation’s 30th secretary of agriculture in January 2009.

Prior to becoming secretary of agriculture, Vilsack served two terms as governor of Iowa. He also was a state senator and the mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Vilsack earned a bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and a law degree from Albany School of Law.

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