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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the NBAF?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to open a new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas. This state-of-the-art facility will be a national asset designed to protect our nation’s agriculture, farmers, ranchers and producers along with citizens against the threat and potential impact of serious animal diseases.

NBAF will replace the aging Plum Island Animal Disease Center located on Plum Island, New York. The facility, owned by DHS, is more than 60 years old. Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in this facility.

What will be the purpose of NBAF?

To protect the producers and the food supply, a robust capability is necessary to detect, treat and prevent animal diseases. Protection of livestock and agricultural interests also protects the economy since agriculture, food, and food processing contribute over $3.9 trillion to the U.S. economy per year, representing 22% of the domestic economy.

To protect the food supply and support the U.S. economy, NBAF will enable the U.S. to conduct comprehensive research, develop vaccines and anti-virals, and provide enhanced diagnostic and training capabilities to protect the nation from numerous emerging and foreign animal diseases (FADs). This includes zoonotic FADs that pose threats to livestock and/or human health. A zoonotic disease is one that can be transmitted from animals to people (or more specifically, a disease that normally exists in animals but that can infect humans). The state-of-the-art, $1.25 billion facility will be the first in the U.S. to provide maximum biocontainment (biosafety level-4) laboratories capable of housing cattle and other large livestock for the purpose of developing vaccines and diagnostics for these diseases. NBAF is not only about protecting biological and agricultural interests in America; it's also about supporting global health and food security.

NBAF will be a critical component of a key USDA priority – the development of vaccines and countermeasures for and the detection of diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from our nation’s farms and fields.

What agencies within USDA have a role with NBAF?

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will have programs at NBAF and share responsibilities for its operation. ARS will own the facility and hire the NBAF Director.

How many people will be working at the facility when it is operating at full capacity?

Approximately 400 personnel will eventually staff NBAF.

How much will NBAF cost?

NBAF construction and commissioning will cost $1.25 billion. The $1.25 billion acquisition cost was fully funded in FY15 through a combination of $938 million in federal appropriations, $307 million in funding provided by the State of Kansas, and $5 million from the City of Manhattan (Kansas).

Why the transition of responsibility for NBAF from DHS to USDA?

Per guidance from the Office of Management and Budget, DHS and USDA started planning for USDA to take over complete ownership and management of NBAF once the facility is commissioned in 2021. The transition of responsibility from DHS to USDA will result in a more efficient alignment of core mission functions.

How is NBAF’s transition between USDA and DHS happening?

DHS has responsibility for (finishing) construction of the facility, while USDA will assume and retain operational responsibility for the facility. USDA will be responsible for the operations of the completed facility in Dec. 2020, two years prior to the facility reaching full operational capacity (FOC).

USDA and DHS have developed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to outline agency responsibilities for the transition and are working together closely to execute plans.

What role could NBAF have played in the COVID-19 pandemic, and what role could it have in future pandemics?

The mission of the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is to protect the United States against transboundary, emerging and zoonotic animal diseases that threaten our food supply, agricultural economy and public health. NBAF will be a critical component of a key U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) priority—the development of animal vaccines and other countermeasures for the detection of diseases that threaten livestock, other animals and food from our nation’s farms and fields.

From the public health perspective, NBAF will provide the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the United States, enabling us to work on the most high-consequence “zoonotic” animal diseases—those that can infect both livestock and people. Some studies have pointed to the fact that COVID-19 has an animal component, which means it could fall into the zoonotic category. In fact, over 70 percent of emerging diseases that have affected humans in the last 10 years have an animal component. So while NBAF will largely focus on animal diseases, it could play a supporting role in future public health crises with respect to livestock research, diagnostics, countermeasure development, training and response.

What specific expertise will NBAF bring to the table for future pandemics?

Currently, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) conduct foreign animal disease research, training and diagnostics in New York at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (PIADC) which is more than 60 years old. NBAF will replace this aging facility but will continue and expand on its mission making NBAF the home of internationally recognized animal disease experts who will likely be called upon to assist other countries in addressing significant animal disease situations and to partner with public health officials when needed to protect animal and human health.

NBAF will also be the future home of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (FADDL) currently located at PIADC. FADDL’s mission is to provide 24/7 diagnostic testing to rapidly detect and respond to an introduction of a high-consequence, foreign animal disease into the United States like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) or African swine fever. But because NBAF will have the first high-containment, Biosafety Level (BSL) 4 facility for livestock in the U.S., we’ll also be able to identify, conduct research and develop veterinary countermeasures for the most high-consequence zoonotic diseases that can infect both livestock and people. Being able to identify these diseases in animals as soon as possible is critical to minimizing the impact on public health. The training facilities at NBAF will allow us to double the number of veterinarians trained by the FADDL team every year as part of the Foreign Animal Disease Diagnostician Course, which provides an opportunity for federal and state veterinarians to see these diseases in real time so they can better understand them and know what to look for should an outbreak occur.