Commissioner’s AgriCorner: Strengthening Florida’s livestock industry


FLORIDA’S FARMERS and ranchers face a variety of threats, including pests, disease, and market changes. The success — and in some cases the survival — of Florida’s 500-year-old agriculture industry depends on its ability to prevent, diagnose, and respond to crises.

Florida’s livestock industry is all too familiar with national threats that have the potential to cripple the multibillion-dollar industry, especially with recent challenges like tuberculosis, bovine spongiform encephalitis, and equine West Nile Virus. One way the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services works with Florida’s cattlemen, horse enthusiasts, and other livestock producers is to provide disease detection services via our Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.

Originally built in 1957, this lab helps protect Florida from animal pests and diseases that could have major economic and public health consequences. The lab can conduct an array of tests and diagnose infectious diseases in animals. The lab also offers livestock postmortem examinations to identify the cause of death.

After more than 50 years of helping Florida’s livestock industry overcome a number of devastating diseases and pests, the lab is outdated and needs to be modernized. Our department recently conducted a comprehensive review of the lab to evaluate the facility, equipment, and processes. Based on the findings of the review, we developed a strategic plan to enhance the facility and equipment, and strengthen the customer service.

We’re already working to implement the plan to improve our customer service and increase efficiency in our processes. We’re hiring strong individuals to assume new positions, and we’re increasing coordination and communication among staff.

Laboratory software program upgrades are also in progress. But to enhance the facility and equipment, we need funding from the Florida Legislature. That’s why I’ve requested $3.5 million from the Florida Legislature.

The general laboratory building was constructed in 1957 and requires multiple upgrades to maintain current laboratory accreditation. Most of the funding I’ve requested from the Legislature will go toward improving the existing facility and planning for a future building to ensure our lab can meet the needs of the industry for years to come. In addition, the funding will support equipment upgrades, which will improve testing efficiency and accuracy. In a time of crisis, these efficiencies become all the more important.

For nearly five centuries, livestock has played a key role in Florida’s economy and culture. From beef cattle and horses, to poultry and dairy herds, the state’s livestock industry generates billions of dollars in economic impact annually. With improvements to the Bronson Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory, and its ability to respond to animal health crises, we can help ensure livestock remain a part of Florida’s economy and culture for generations to come.

CREDIT

article by Florida Commissioner of Agriculture ADAM H. PUTNAM