By Ken Newton
After an attempt to strip the funding from an appropriations bill, a planned agro-defense facility in Kansas got $404 million in legislation passed by the U.S. House on Thursday.
Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins, who supports the building of the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, called the project essential for the country's food security.
"Our nation's food supply cannot sustain another delay," she said during House debate on the Homeland Security appropriations bill. "Our security is at risk, and delaying this project any further is not an option."
The spending measure passed by a vote of 245 to 182. The price of the House-passed bill came in at about $45 billion.
North Missouri Congressman Sam Graves also voted in favor of the legislation.
Along with other Kansas lawmakers, Ms. Jenkins has championed the long-brewing NBAF project, a proposed research laboratory and biocontainment structure for farm animal diseases that pose a threat to public health.
She praised the facility's inclusion in the appropriations bill despite its high cost and the fiscal constraints in Washington, calling the spending "responsible prioritization."
In her floor speech, Ms. Jenkins noted that President Obama's budget called for $714 million to go to NBAF, but she said the allocated amount of $404 million would move the project along.
Congress had earlier directed almost $128 million toward the work, she said, and Kansas and the city of Manhattan have committed more than $200 million to advance the project.
The new structure would take the place of one on Plum Island, off the coast of New York. Built in the 1950s, that facility has neared the end of its useful life.
Congressman Tim Bishop, a New York Democrat who represents the district that includes Plum Island, filed an amendment to strip the NBAF funding from the Homeland Security bill.
"This NBAF project is a boondoggle," he said in arguing for his amendment. "We don't even have a shovel in the ground yet and already the cost has gone up by 250 percent. It is not needed."
Mr. Bishop said putting the facility studying harmful diseases "in the heart of cattle country" represents a needless risk.
Ms. Jenkins countered: "(Plum Island) does not contain the necessary biosafety level to meet the NBAF research requirements, and it never will. Any attempts to upgrade Plum Island would cost more than building the NBAF."
The House voted down the Bishop amendment 345 to 80.
An economic study done last year said the NBAF project would create 1,300 jobs during the construction period and more than 600 permanent jobs, in addition to strengthening the bioscience industry throughout the region.