A groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 3 for the upcoming renovation of the USDA Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory (SEPRL), in Athens, Georgia.

The updated laboratory, when completed, will be the largest poultry research facility in the United States, David Swayne, SEPRL laboratory director.

Most of the SEPRL’s current facilities in Athens were completed in 1963, reported The Red and Black, and have been in need of an upgrade. The need for an upgrade of SEPRL has been discussed by the federal government for several years. 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 new facility will expand the laboratory’s capabilities of researching and responding to avian influenza outbreaks. In recent years, SEPRL has created rapid diagnostic tests for avian influenza, and responded with research to outbreaks within the United States, Swayne said.

The facility has assisted countries with forming vaccines for the eradication of poultry-related diseases such as avian influenza and Newcastle disease.

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Perdue applauds laboratory’s past, future

The ceremony was attended by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who said the laboratory has been an asset to the U.S. and the poultry industry, and that with the modernization, it become even more valuable.

 “For over 55 years, on this hill and this campus around you, taxpayers and the world has gotten their money’s worth,” said Perdue, who is also the former governor of Georgia. “[Foreign] producers can’t compete because the integrated research whether it be in the Department of Agriculture, poultry science, veterinary medicine, or the Agricultural Research Service that sits here which make our producers the best, most efficient, and most productive in the world.”

Also in attendance at the groundbreaking was Rep. Sandford Bishop Jr., D-Georgia. Bishop represents Georgia’s Second District.