Californian Animal Health, Food Safety Lab to Close

CALIFORNIA, US - Budget cuts have forced the closure of the animal health and food safety laboratory in Fresno.
calendar icon 21 May 2009
clock icon 4 minute read

Due to budget shortfalls, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, managed by the University of California, Davis, will close its Fresno laboratory on 19 July.

The laboratory system provides diagnostic services for diseases in livestock, poultry and horses to veterinarians and animal producers in California's agricultural heartland. Closure of the 59-year-old Fresno laboratory will shift diagnostic testing to other facilities in the laboratory system.

"We are proud of the Fresno laboratory's long service to California, particularly to the agricultural industry of the southern San Joaquin Valley," said Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which operates the laboratory network. "Unfortunately, reduced state funding combined with rising costs to manage a sophisticated laboratory system have left it struggling to maintain services."

The laboratory system, managed by UC Davis since 1987, has its reference lab at UC Davis and branch laboratories in Turlock, Fresno, Tulare and San Bernardino. The network of diagnostic labs receives approximately 80 per cent of its funding from a contract with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The remainder of its revenue comes from fee-for-service testing provided to veterinarians and agricultural producers. Rising costs and a reduction in the contract with the state during 2008-2009, compounded by the weak economy, have left the system with a projected funding deficit exceeding $2 million in 2009-2010.

The closure of the Fresno laboratory will affect more than 20 employees, resulting in the reassignment of three faculty positions to the system's labs in Tulare and Davis and the lay-off of the remaining scientific and administrative personnel.

In addition to the closure of the Fresno lab, the laboratory system has eliminated 14.75 positions through staff and faculty attrition at the Davis, San Bernardino and Turlock labs.

"The faculty and staff of our laboratories are dedicated to high-quality service for our animal industry," said Hailu Kinde, director of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. "While we deeply regret the personal and professional impact of this closure upon our colleagues in Fresno, we remain committed to upholding the mission of the laboratory system. We will make every effort to continue to provide excellent, reliable diagnostic service."

Dr Kinde said that the laboratory system has reached out to contact area veterinarians and agricultural producers via e-mail, alerting them to the Fresno lab's impending closure and informing them of plans for continued diagnostic services.

The Fresno branch laboratory has provided a full range of testing services including poultry disease monitoring, as well as surveillance for brucellosis, tuberculosis and avian viruses. Following the lab's closure, brucellosis surveillance and poultry pathology will be carried out at the Tulare laboratory. Diagnostic tests for viruses in poultry will be conducted at the laboratory at UC Davis, while blood and serum tests will be done at the Turlock laboratory.

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