New Funding for US Poultry Health Research Centre

US - The Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL) in Athens, Georgia, to upgrade its facilities, which focus on research into Newcastle disease and avian influenza.
calendar icon 18 December 2014
clock icon 4 minute read

A $45 million federal outlay will get the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory in Athens on the road toward matching its facilities with its mission — a mission that has expanded significantly since the College Station Road facility was built in the 1960s.

Online Athens reports that a recent five-year internal USDA facilities assessment revealed that upgrading SEPRL should be the agency’s top priority, according to David Swayne, the facility’s director.

The $45 million included in the new federal budget is just part of the $155 million that will eventually be needed to modernize the facility, an effort that will include the addition of 100,000 square feet of new space.

From a single project at its start, the laboratory now is involved in a host of research initiatives, Dr Swayne said, including work on avian influenza and Newcastle disease, a poultry infection present across much of the world.

Overall, the lab’s aim is to provide government agencies and the poultry industry with improved intervention strategies against both emerging and endemic poultry diseases. That is a particularly critical mission in terms of Georgia’s own agricultural industry, of which poultry is the largest segment.

“Georgia leads the nation in poultry production and the funding ... to consolidate USDA poultry health research in Athens will assure we continue to be the best at producing healthy, safe, wholesome and affordable poultry products,” University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Dean Scott Angle, whose college collaborates with the Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory.

“Georgia poultry farmers and processors will benefit substantially from the research conducted at this facility. Poultry is critically important to the economy of Georgia, having an impact of almost $40 billion annually.”

The laboratory’s equipment has kept up with state-of-the-art standards, according to SEPRL Director, Dr Swayne, but its physical facilities have lagged behind its expanding mission.

The new federal dollars will be used to replace some older facilities in the 35-building complex, which includes the structures needed to raise disease-free chickens, a critical component of the SEPRL’s work.

It is not clear when construction activity will be seen at SEPRL’s College Station Road site. Before any of that work can be done, some extensive design work will be required, Dr Swayne explained.

Getting the funding to SEPRL was, in large part, the work of US Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga), who grew up in Athens and now represents a portion of coastal southern Georgia in Congress.

Online Athens reports Mr Kingston saying: “The Southeast Poultry Research Lab is of national and international significance and leads the world in poultry health research. The USDA, along with chicken and turkey processors all over the world, will continue to benefit from the research being done in Athens.”

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