The Maryland Department of Agriculture hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its new Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory in Salisbury. A brief speaking program featured remarks from Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Joe Bartenfelder; Maryland Secretary of General Services Ellington E. Churchill, Jr.; Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael Scuse; Maryland State Veterinarian Dr. Michael Odian; and Holly Porter, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.

“The construction of a new Salisbury Animal Health Lab has been a priority for our administration,” said Secretary Bartenfelder. “This state-of-the-art facility will be our first line of defense in preventing and controlling infectious diseases in livestock and poultry. Agriculture is critical to Maryland’s economy, and this will enhance our ability to promote animal health while securing the safety and continued success of the industry.”

“As the lead agency for state building construction, we know the importance of delivering a quality project to our client agencies, and ultimately to the people of Maryland,” said Secretary Churchill. “We will continue to work closely with the Maryland Department of Agriculture and will oversee construction progress to ensure that this new facility meets their high standards for animal health diagnostics.”

The new Salisbury Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory will replace the department’s original lab, which was built in 1953, and is in need of major renovations. At 19,178 square feet, the new lab provides larger work areas; public meetings and training facilities; two necropsy suites; a new incinerator; and a Biosafety Level 3 (BSL3) laboratory for advanced diagnostic work.

In addition to expanding the lab’s capacity and capabilities, the new building will be LEED Silver certified and will have hook-ups for natural gas to improve the building’s energy efficiency and environmental stewardship. Construction is expected to be completed in March 2021.

“I am happy to be here today as we celebrate a major step forward for the Animal Health Program,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Odian. “This project is the culmination of work that began with my predecessor, Dr. Michael Radebaugh, and our outstanding team at the Salisbury Animal Health Lab. This new facility will bolster our program with the resources it needs to continue striving for excellence in our diagnostic services.”

The department works closely with state and federal counterparts, as well as private and commercial veterinarians, to protect Maryland’s agriculture industry against infectious diseases like avian influenza and equine infectious anemia. Specializing in poultry disease, the new Salisbury lab will play a critical role in regional efforts to safeguard the health of millions of birds on the Delmarva peninsula.

“Delmarva’s $3.4 billion chicken community relies on the Salisbury Animal Health Lab, along with Lasher Lab in Delaware, to help us constantly monitor the health of farmers’ flocks for any sign of disease,” said Holly Porter, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. “It’s dedicated teamwork that brings farmers, chicken companies, and these labs together to keep our food safe.”

Photos from the event are available by request and will be posted on the department’s Flickr account. For more information on the Animal Health Program, please visit the department’s website.