A $1.55 million upgrade to the USDA’s Southeast Poultry Disease Research Laboratory in Athens, Georgia, that was part of the Obama administration’s budget for 2014 appears unlikely to happen soon as a result of congressional gridlock, according to sources.
In April 2013, federal officials proposed a budget that included updating the laboratory, which had facilities built on 1964 and 1976. A review done of agriculture research service facilities stated that the outdated facility’s limitations now prevent critical, cutting-edge research from being conducted, and that construction of a new facility would allow USDA scientists to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 also the health of American consumers.
The poultry lab upgrade project is in the House agriculture appropriations bill, but not in the Senate’s version. According to a report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, neither the House nor the Senate bill has passed its respective chamber, and congressional leaders plan to extend spending at the same levels for at least a few months, which would likely doom the project in 2014.
The laboratory project was included in Obama’s $56 billion “Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative,” which would be paid for in part by tax increases that are unlikely to be passed, so the projects have been largely ignored, analysts say.
One of the poultry lab project’s biggest supporters, Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, is a high ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, but Kingston gave up his House seat to pursue a bid for a U.S. Senate seat. That election attempt was unsuccessful.