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Pennsylvania consider new veterinary lab for western farmers

Pennsylvania consider new veterinary lab for western farmers

By Blake Jackson

Pennsylvania's agriculture secretary is pushing for a new state veterinary lab in western Pennsylvania to boost services for farmers and strengthen the agricultural industry.

Secretary Russell Redding believes a western lab would provide crucial benefits:

  • Faster turnaround times: Western farmers currently lack access to same-day test results, potentially delaying diagnoses and impacting decisions about livestock movement.
  • Enhanced disease detection: A new lab could expedite detection of diseases like African swine fever or avian influenza, safeguarding animal health.
  • Reduced travel time: Farmers won't have to spend a day transporting samples or rely on overnight shipping for timely results.

The new facility would prioritize essential, time-sensitive tests while also serving as a drop-off point for samples requiring more specialized analysis elsewhere.

This initiative aligns with the state's focus on expanding the pork and poultry industries beyond southeastern Pennsylvania. A concentrated production area in the southeast raises concerns about disease spread and manure management.

While some western Pennsylvania farms utilize labs in neighboring states, the proposal aims to establish a robust in-state solution.

The estimated cost for establishing and equipping the lab is $5 million. The location will be chosen through a competitive bidding process, considering factors like infrastructure access and potential partnerships with existing institutions.

Penn State University has expressed interest in operating the lab, citing its existing infrastructure and statewide presence. However, the state is open to proposals from new institutions as well.

The proposed lab would employ around five to eight staff members, much fewer than the combined total of the three existing labs in the state's eastern part.

The initiative has received positive feedback from agricultural organizations, who see it as a much-needed improvement for western Pennsylvania's agricultural infrastructure.

Lawmakers are currently considering the proposal, with some suggesting alternative solutions like improved courier services for sample delivery. However, Secretary Redding and committee chairman Rep. Pashinski believe a new lab represents the most proactive approach to supporting the state's agricultural industry.

The final decision on funding for the western lab is expected by the end of June, alongside the passage of the state budget.

Photo Credit: istock-dusanpetkovic

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Categories: Pennsylvania, Government & Policy

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