MDA breaks ground for new animal health diagnostic laboratory
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A disease outbreak has no regard for farm boundaries, state lines, whether it’s a holiday or the middle of the night.
That means if an infectious disease in poultry or livestock begins to spread, having the best tools and the capacity to contain it quickly helps the entire agriculture industry.
Toward strengthening Maryland and Delmarva’s ability to contain an industry-crippling animal disease, the Maryland Department of Agriculture hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its new animal health diagnostic laboratory.
Expected to be completed in March 2021, the new Salisbury Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory will replace the department’s original lab, which was built in 1953, and in need of major renovations.
At 19,178 square feet, the new $17 million lab provides larger work areas; public meetings and training facilities; two necropsy suites; a new incinerator; and a Biosafety Level 3 laboratory for advanced diagnostic work on highly pathogenic diseases.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder said Gov. Larry Hogan pushed for funding for the new laboratory after visiting the existing lab years earlier and seeing its limitations firsthand.
“He was absolutely astounded by what he’d seen or what he didn’t see,” Bartenfelder said.
Working with the legislature, the project was approved in the state’s 2015 capital budget.
“This state-of-the-art facility will be our first line of defense in preventing and controlling infectious diseases in livestock and poultry,” Bartenfelder said. “Agriculture is critical to Maryland’s economy, and this will enhance our ability to promote animal health while securing the safety and continued success of the industry.”
Joining Maryland officials for the groundbreaking was Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse — who said along with the University of Delaware’s Lasher Laboratory — the new Salisbury lab will improve the entire peninsula’s ability to monitor and contain infectious diseases and provide added “surge capacity,” to handle more testing in the event of an outbreak.
“That capacity is extremely important,” Scuse said. “Delaware and Maryland have been working closely to respond to disease threats. Everyone works together to keep the poultry industry healthy.”
Holly Porter, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., echoed the need for states to work together against disease, noting multiple examples of swift action by lab staff and the industry to help contain incidence of any industry-crippling diseases.
“It’s dedicated teamwork that brings farmers, chicken companies, and these labs together to keep our food safe,” Porter said.
Dr. Michael Radebaugh, former Maryland state veterinarian, said along with protecting the poultry industry, one of the two necropsy labs is planned for livestock, adding to the state’s lab in Frederick, Md. Radebaugh said the Shore’s horse population is increasing as more people move to the area and being able to handle livestock will help the state better monitor disease in those animals as well.
“It’s going to be great that they’re not going to have to make that trip to Frederick,” Radebaugh said. “To have this here is really great for our industry.”
Having meeting and training space on site will help make more people aware of the lab and its services, Radebaugh added along with helping farmers maintain animal health on their farms.
In addition to expanding the lab’s capacity and capabilities, the new building will be LEED Silver certified and will have hook-ups for natural gas to improve the building’s energy efficiency and environmental impact.
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