MANHATTAN — The president of Kansas State University has told Congress that the school needs federal funds to continue vital research into fighting disease and biological threats that he warned could devastate America’s food supply.
“Hungry people are unhappy people,” President Richard Myers testified Wednesday. “America still feeds the world and there is an urgent need to protect America’s food crops, food animals and food supply from naturally occurring and intentionally developed and delivered biological threats. Either could be devastating.”
Myers said the university needs federal funding to continue research on four emerging animal diseases, the Wichita Eagle reported. The university has been using its own biological isolation labs to research Rift Valley fever, Japanese encephalitis and two variants of swine fever in anticipation of the opening of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, he said.
The more than $1.2 billion facility is under construction near the university’s Manhattan campus and is expected to operate starting in 2022 or 2023. But Myers said Kansas’ commitment to pay for disease research will end in 2019, so the school will soon need federal assistance to continue until the facility opens.
He also said the country needs more agricultural scientists, veterinarians and doctors who have the necessary security clearances to act on classified intelligence information.
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who serves as chairman of the Agriculture Committee and who invited Myers to testify, said Myers’ recommendations should be written into Congress’ next farm bill. Roberts said agricultural security is important “to consumers, the American economy and the safety of our country.”