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NBAF no longer seems so far off

Budget proposal includes final funding amount

By The Mercury

Predicting what will be in the federal budget that Congress sends to the president is an exercise in futility.

Although Republicans have found little to like in President Barack Obama’s proposals, there’s at least one item the six Republicans in the Kansas congressional delegation can be counted on to support: the $300 million the president has included for NBAF construction.

As a story in Tuesday’s Mercury noted, that is expected to be the final chunk of money necessary for construction of NBAF — the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which in replacing the aging structure on Plum Island, N.Y., will become the nation’s head research laboratory for the study of large animal diseases.

In a joint statement, members of the Kansas delegation said, “This gives Congress a blueprint to provide the final portion of funding to advance construction of the modern, world-class NBAF facility so it can protect the animal security of the United States. We will continue to work to make certain NBAF remains a top priority…”

The project’s total cost has risen from less than $600 million to more than $1 billion, largely because of design improvements mandated by reviews of initial plans. Congress appropriated $404 million in the budget approved two months ago, and the Kansas Legislature has approved more than $300 million in bonds. The City of Manhattan also is contributing $5 million.

Construction on NBAF’s central utility plant is well under way, having begun last summer. KSU President Kirk Schulz said it could take another 18 months.

He was upbeat last week in a letter to the campus community, focusing on the benefits NBAF will have for Manhattan and the region. Among existing assets are the Biosecurity Research Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Grain and Animal Research and the Grain Science and Industry north complex. Under construction is the building that will house the Kansas Department of Agriculture, which is moving from Topeka.

As President Schulz noted, “When these entities are joined with a creative and dynamic faculty, a highly experienced staff and a diverse student population, we have a tremendous set of tools to help ensure that NBAF is a force multiplier for economic growth.”

A great deal of work remains, of course, but NBAF has come a long way. Even better, there is much to look forward to.

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