The National Centers for Animal Health (NCAH) in Ames are finally complete. Today’s official dedication marked the end of a nearly 10-year project to bring three federal research facilities onto a single campus. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was on hand for the ceremony.
The former Iowa governor says scientists in the giant research laboratory were invaluable when more than three dozen countries banned imports of U.S. pork during the H-1-N-1 scare. “It was people in this facility, who set the record straight,” Vilsack said. “It was people in this facility who worked on a vaccine that allowed us to consistently and, over the course of time, to reopen those markets.”
The million square foot operation in northeast Ames cost 462-million dollars. It’s now home to the National Animal Disease Center, the National Veterinary Services Laboratory and the Center for Veterinary Biologics. U.S. Senator Tom Harkin says the work done there protects consumers from things like mad cow disease.
“Since 9/11, we’ve had to deal with the occurrence of BSE in our country. We’ve had outbreaks of other animal diseases around the world, including most recently H1N1. And we’ve become acutely aware that animal health and human health are inextricably linked,” Harkin said. Planning to bring the centers together as a way to save on operating costs began in early 2001.
Officials say it was the largest project ever attempted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Around 700 people work at the NCAH.