WASHINGTON, DC – Nebraska’s Senator Ben Nelson today asked the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to direct $800,000 to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for its Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance and monitoring program. This funding allocation would allow the Scottsbluff Animal Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Nebraska, closed due to state-level funding cuts, to reopen.
“Over the past several years, Nebraska has experienced an increase in reported cases of CWD, particularly in the panhandle region of the state,” said Nelson. “While the Game and Parks Commission has been very pro-active in collecting information on CWD, the testing program has suffered for lack of resources. Federal funding would be a vital component in continuing this important program.”
In a letter to Bobby Acord, Associate Administrator for the USDA, Nelson pointed out that Nebraska has done a remarkable job in testing for the disease. This testing has enabled wildlife officials, as well as those owning captive herds, to identify contingency plans, treatment, and quarantine for infected herds. The laboratory facility in Scottsbluff was used for the vast majority of CWD samples and was the only facility in the state where positive tests were confirmed. Unfortunately, the Scottsbluff facility has been closed due to state budget cuts, placing a severe burden on the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission as it attempts to keep up with the need for CWD surveillance and monitoring.
The Omnibus Appropriations bill signed by the President last month includes $14,933,000 for CWD diagnosis and certification. Nelson requested that $800,000 of this funding be directed to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission for its program. With this allocation, $200,000 could then be used to reopen the Scottsbluff facility.
“The key to controlling any epidemic is timely identification and diagnosis of the disease, use of mitigating measures to decrease the spread, and eventually quarantining of herds to eradicate the problem,” wrote Nelson. “Laboratories like the one in Scottsbluff serve as the front-line defense against CWD and other wildlife diseases. It is critically important that this facility be reopened.”