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May 10, 2006   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
May 10, 2006

State Diagnostic Lab Director Dr. Fred Hoerr, second from left, takes Alabama agriculture leaders on a tour of the new facility. From left are former Agriculture Commissioner Jack Thompson, Hoerr, Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks and Alabama Farmers Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore.
AUBURN, Ala.-- Alabama farmers and consumers will benefit from more rapid and thorough animal disease testing taking place at the new diagnostic laboratory dedicated May 9 in Auburn.

The Thompson--Bishop--Sparks State Diagnostic Laboratory is adjacent to the Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and was named in honor of the three Alabama agriculture commissioners who served during the development, funding and construction of the lab. The facility serves livestock and poultry producers as well as veterinarians and consumers by performing scores of tests for animal diseases.

Current Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks praised the work of agricultural organizations, including the Alabama Farmers Federation, for their help in securing funding for the new lab.

"If you don't have a coalition, you are not going to be successful," Sparks said. "This diagnostic lab is the result of the hard work and innovation of many people over the past 12 years. I am proud to be a part of such an important project. This lab means that we can continue to raise our standard of knowledge about animal health and disease prevention in Alabama."

The 55,000-square-foot diagnostic lab was funded by a $52 million agriculture and economic development bond issue first approved by voters in 1998. It cost $14 million to build and represents the "crown jewel" of the Department of Agriculture, according to State Veterinarian Tony Frazier. The need to update and replace the state's antiquated diagnostic lab was identified by former Commissioner of Agriculture Jack Thompson. His work to secure funding for the project was continued by his successor Charles Bishop, and construction finally began during Sparks' administration.

Federation Executive Director Mike Kilgore praised the "tenacity" of the three commissioners of agriculture for seeing the project to completion.

"The Alabama Farmers Federation is very proud to be part of this vision and dream that has come true," Kilgore said. "This is a great day for the people of Alabama, but especially for those it is here to serve -- our agricultural producers."

Lab Director Dr. Fred Hoerr said the high-tech facility allows Alabama to better combat existing and emerging animal health issues, which ensures the well being and economic security of the state and nation. The building includes toxicology, bacteriology and virology labs that house state-of-the-art equipment.

Former Commissioner of Agriculture Jack Thompson said the facility will help strengthen Alabama's multi-billion-dollar livestock and poultry industries by providing added assurance to foreign trading partners that Alabama products meet the highest safe and health standards. He also thanked Alabama voters for approving the bond issue that provided funding for the lab.

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