- Associated Press - Friday, March 17, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s animal disease research lab is in line for much-needed upgrades after Gov. Dennis Daugaard approved creative funding to provide it with $50.1 million.

Daugaard signed legislation Friday to upgrade and expand the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Laboratory at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

The lab performs daily food safety tests and also tests for disease in pigs, cattle and other livestock. It’s used by many farmers and veterinarians in the state and was a key player in the bird flu outbreak of two years ago. That outbreak highlighted the need for upgrades estimated to cost about $58 million.

To prepare for future outbreaks, lab officials have said they need an improved biosafety room that can handle hazardous pathogens like foot-and-mouth disease and bird flu. The remodel will also allow for new technology that didn’t exist when the lab had its last major face-lift in 1993, including things such as molecular-based testing and DNA sequencing.

“The funding for the enhancements and upgrades will address the animal health, biosafety and environmental safety needs of today,” said SDSU President Barry Dunn. “This is a game-changer for our state, the region and our university.”

The legislation will combine about $2 million in one-time state funds with $6 million from SDSU. The remainder will come from a redirection of property tax relief for agricultural land. University officials say construction is slated to begin this fall. State officials have said low commodity prices and a slow agriculture economy were the project’s biggest barriers while deciding on funding.

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