Nearly seven years ago, the terrorist attacks on America changed the way we look at security in our country. In the aftermath of September 11, our government identified other targets that were at risk. Due to the harm a disruption of our food supply would have on our nation and our economy, our country’s livestock was identified as one of those targets. Steps have now been taken to address this vulnerability.
Mississippi finds itself in the forefront of the effort to prepare our country against an attack on our food supply. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is working to establish a National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) that would study ways to protect against an attack on our nation’s livestock by the introduction of a foreign animal disease such as foot-and-mouth disease. The selection of Mississippi for this facility would have a positive economic impact and bring hundreds of quality, good-paying jobs to our state.
After proposals were reviewed from 29 sites across the nation, Mississippi was recently selected as one of six finalists to host the NBAF at its proposed site in the Flora Industrial Park in Madison County. There is an unprecedented level of support for Mississippi’s bid, led by a consortium of world-class education and research partners, which includes seven Mississippi universities as well as leading education and research partners from outside the state.
In addition to the enthusiastic support for Mississippi’s bid, an analysis of the six finalists released by DHS in June shows the Mississippi site outperformed other proposals when it came to environmental impact and cost of construction and maintenance. According to a draft environmental impact statement, the Madison County site ranks just as well or better than the other proposed sites in terms of effects on the surrounding environment. In addition, DHS’s analysis estimated that over 50 years, Mississippi’s site would save taxpayers an average of $256 million.
STATEWIDE ECONOMIC IMPACT
We have seen numerous companies like Nissan and Toyota move to Mississippi to take advantage of our capable workforce and high quality of life. If Mississippi is selected to host the NBAF, it would add to our state’s economic strength. The construction of this $450 million facility and its ongoing maintenance would bring good-paying jobs to our state. Additionally, the facility’s $125 million annual operating budget would support up to 350 skilled jobs. The economic impact of such an operation would be felt well beyond the borders of Madison County, benefiting our entire state.
Mississippi’s university system produces more than 700 graduates a year in NBAF-related fields. This educational and workforce strength, coupled with our unified support and the economic efficiency for taxpayers is why Mississippi is the best choice for the NBAF. In the coming months, DHS will make its final decision. If that is done on the merits of the proposals, I am confident Mississippi will prevail. That would be a positive development for our country and our state.