Governor Laura Kelly praised federal officials for taking an important step toward transitioning operations of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) from New York to Manhattan, Kan.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday signed a memorandum of agreement that formally outlines how the two departments will transfer ownership and operational responsibility for the NBAF from DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate to the USDA.

Under the terms of the memorandum, DHS retains responsibility for completing construction and commissioning of the $1.25 billion facility, while the USDA will assume responsibility for all operational planning and eventual operation of the facility. DHS’ efforts are on schedule and on budget to complete construction in December 2020 and to complete commissioning in May 2021, when ownership of NBAF will be formally transferred to the USDA.

“We’re grateful to the Trump administration and our congressional delegation from Kansas for their support of this important project,” Governor Kelly said. “NBAF will help protect the nation’s food supply for many years to come, while also providing an economic boost to the animal-science corridor and entire Kansas economy through private animal-health firms and others involved in research at the site.”

The state-of-the-art NBAF facility in Manhattan will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center in New York. The Kansas site strategically places it near the largest concentration of animal health companies in the world, providing access to important veterinary, agricultural and biosecurity research and expertise.

The facility will be the only one of its kind in the United States. NBAF will provide scientists unique access to high consequence pathogens that affect large livestock, as well as enhanced diagnostic capabilities that will speed up the response time to threats that harm the nation’s food supply. As the only biosafety level-4 large livestock research and diagnostic laboratory in the nation, NBAF seeks to protect the nation’s agriculture and public health by understanding and developing vaccines for zoonotic (animal-to-human) and high consequence foreign animal diseases.

“The mission of the Kansas Department of Agriculture includes protecting animal health, promoting public health and safety, and ensuring a safe food supply,” Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam said. “NBAF will provide fundamental research ensuring livestock, food and fiber industries in Kansas remain secure.”

The agriculture industry impacts the state’s economy more than any other sector, accounting for more than $63 billion to the Kansas economy each year. In an economy that relies heavily on the agriculture industry, innovative research is imperative for future progress and security.