The Obama administration's proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture budget for 2014 includes $155 million to fund the replacement of the agency's Southeast Poultry Disease Research Laboratory in Athens, Ga. The money allocated would fully fund the new facility, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an April 10 radio address, the same day the budget was released.

According to the USDA, a review was done of the Agricultural Research Service facilities in 2012 that highlighted facilities with aging infrastructure and identified the Southeast Poultry Disease Research Laboratory as the highest priority recommended for modernization. The laboratory has facilities that were built in 1964 and 1976, and those facility's limitations now prevent critical, cutting-edge research from being conducted.

Construction of a new facility would allow USDA scientists to more adequately address emerging or exotic poultry diseases that threaten not only the nation's poultry industry, but the health of American consumers, the agency said.

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The Southeast Poultry Disease Research Laboratory has conducted research over the past 20 years on exotic poultry diseases and has the only USDA program that provides research support to the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration on diseases like avian influenza, Newcastle disease and West Nile Virus, the budget said.

The poultry lab project is allocated under the USDA's Research, Education and Economics budget authority, which has a total budget of $1.124 billion. The entire USDA budget amounts to $145.8 billion.

The USDA budget is subject to congressional approval.