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The drought continues, while farmers hope to keep disease testing lab open

Tuesday, Jul 31, 2012

* I was in southern Illinois over the weekend to visit a county fair, and the farmers were all talking about how their corn crop was basically nothing. But they have yet another worry on the horizon. If they don’t get rain soon, their soybean crop will be the next on the failure list

Any rain that comes now will be too late to help the corn crop, but it might salvage soybeans, area farmers say. […]

It’s still too early to assess how badly soybeans will be affected, but there’s concern the crop hasn’t received enough moisture to fill out pods.

Many pods may have only one or two beans, rather than the customary three, said Scott Docherty, general manager of Topflight Grain Cooperative at Monticello.

The hay crop is pathetic as well. Several farmers I talked to were preparing to mow their failed corn crop to use as animal feed.

* And then there’s this

There are concerns aflatoxin may be a problem in corn since this is a dry year, Docherty said.

Drought-related stress can make a plant vulnerable to the toxic fungus. When aflatoxin levels exceed certain thresholds, farmers can’t sell the affected crops for feed.

As for soybeans, Docherty said he has had some reports of spider mites in fields.

* The very real threat of aflatoxin is just one of many reasons why Gov. Pat Quinn has decided to keep the Centralia Animal Disease Lab open for a little while

Governor Quinn is keeping the Centralia Animal Disease Lab open. The lab was supposed to close at the end of August but because of an increased workload due to extreme drought conditions, the lab will stay in use for an indefinite period of time.

Lab workers don’t know what this recent news means. Workers have been through their share of ups and downs. At the start of June, lawmakers allotted funds to keep the lab open, along with the other state facilities slated for closure. At the end of June, Governor Quinn signed the state budget that removed that funding. City officials look at this as another opportunity to show the value of the lab to the Governor. […]

Governor Quinn’s office says the lab is staying open until further notice because of the drought. The 16 employees there have no idea how much time that buys them. Ashby is working with a coalition of five county boards, mayors, economic development boards, and farmers to keep the lab open for good.

Ashby says the lab costs around $200,000 a year to run. The coalition wants to institute larger fees to keep the lab running and possibly make it self-sufficient. The lab serves more than 200 communities, and Ashby says this drought proves how important and necessary the lab is.

* But it appears that only the crop testing portion of the facility will remain open through the drought

In an email response Friday evening, Quinn spokesperson Kelly Kraft wrote: “Due to severe drought conditions in the area the Governor is making certain essential crop testing continues at the lab until further notice.”

* As I said, I was in southern Illinois over the weekend and happened to talk with Dr. Ed Schreiber, a highly respected veterinarian who’s passionate about keeping the Centralia Animal Disease Lab open for business. Doc Schreiber was invited to speak to the crowd assembled before the 4-H livestock auction about the pending closure and he mentioned that he had written the governor a letter. I asked him for a copy. Here’s part of it

The [Centralia Animal Disease Lab] is strategically located in the epicenter of animal agriculture in Southern Illinois. Clinton County has the largest livestock production in our State.

With the CADL gone the time between detection and diagnosis of an animal health problem could be so long as to cost the State many more millions of dollars than we will ever realize in savings.

I will also attach an article concerning the economic impact of a mock Foot and Mouth Disease Virus outbreak in California. In summary, as the diagnostic delay went from 7 days to 22 days the number of slaughtered cattle went from 8,700 to 260, 400 and the median national loss in total agricultural surplus ranged from $2.3 billion to $69 billion. Both the Galesburg and Centralia labs are currently qualified to prepare tissues for diagnostics for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease). It is critically important to keep this capability in our State near our largest cattle region. Multiple hours or days of shipment time for some tissues especially brain will prevent these samples from being diagnostically useful (aka they will be soup). How would that look in the media if our State government closed the only lab in the southern two-thirds of our State in which the Federal government has accredited to do this work? […]

If just three 100 cow dairies had dramatic mortalities due to inaccurate or absent testing, the total dollars saved by our State would be negated by the losses experienced by these farm families.

* Dr. Schreiber also played into Gov. Quinn’s fondness for touting the state’s agriculture exports

Without the [Centralia Animal Disease Lab] there also would not be a single animal toxicology lab in our State and this function also would not be transferred to Galesburg. Without the CADL there will be only one lab in the entire United States able test for arsenic. This is a test the Russians require for all poultry meat being shipped to their country.

Without the CADL the Illinois exporters of premium swine genetics around the world will have to look for another lab to do the export testing these countries require. The Chinese will not be happy.

Is it worth jeopardizing millions of dollars of Illinois export?

If you close the Centralia Lab the State’s veterinary community will no longer have a complete laboratory to be a part of their IVERT program designed to mobilize in the event of man-made or natural disasters. Does Illinois really have to stoop so low that we have to depend on other state’s infrastructure in the face of a catastrophic animal or public health emergency? What if these other labs are already overwhelmed?

* Schreiber then mentioned this chilling moment

If your family discovered a dead bat in your backyard where your small children play, you would no longer have an option here in Southern Illinois to take that bat for rabies testing since there was not a confirmed human bite exposure.

A very timely example that demonstrates the public health importance of the Centralia Lab is the case where a women woke up with a bat attached to her lip. She woke up frantic, ripped off the bat and screamed for her husband. He killed the bat and took her and the bat to St. Mary’s Hospital in Centralia. The hospital directed him to take the bat to the CADL. It was accessed into their system at 7:56 AM and their professional staff went to work, just like they have for the last 65 years. The bat’s testing was completed at 11 AM, and it was rabid!

A piece of State infrastructure like this close to the most populous region in the southern part of our State is of critical life-saving importance.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - CircularFiringSquad - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:04 am:

    Perhaps one of our downstate heroes like Jason ROmney-Plummer will dash off a check from Daddy’s account to keep this facility open

  2. - reflector - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:10 am:

    Anything west of I-90 and south of I-80 is expendable,including the people.

  3. - OneMan - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:26 am:

    Never even thought about the rabies thing… Wow….

  4. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:27 am:

    @reflector -

    According to the GOP, there are no critical state-backed programs in Illinois.

    Unless, of course, they are in a Republican district.

    Welcome to the alternate reality Ronald Reagan created.

    “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help” was a great campaign line. I’m sure it drew laughs and applause wherever it was repeated.

    This is your monster, Republicans. Clean up your mess.

  5. - amalia - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:30 am:

    all very disturbing. you think that a lack of rain will keep a fungus at bay, but not true. and spider mites can take things down very quickly. will farmers need to harvest quickly that which can be used somehow, and need volunteers to come in and help?

  6. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:34 am:

    It might be a good time to revisit those ethanol requirements and subsidies. I don’t think farmers are going to have a hard time selling their corn.

  7. - Responsa - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:02 pm:

    Thanks for posting this, Rich. I learned some things here today about Southern Illinois. So many people in the state are just not very informed about, and therefore often seem oblivious to or dismissive of things that go on outside of the Chicago area. I’d like to think perhaps some would not be so spiteful and snarky in partisan ways if they better understood the real issues downstate.

    Also, could not agree with Wordslinger more about this being a perfect time to revisit ethanol. We need to remove the federal ethanol mandates and concurrently get rid of the associated subsidies–at least temporarily as an emergency measure, although a permanent bye-bye would be better.

  8. - 47th Ward - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:05 pm:

    ===the case where a women woke up with a bat attached to her lip. She woke up frantic, ripped off the bat and screamed for her husband.===

    I’m going to need a brain loofa to scrub away that mental image tonight. Note to self: double check the screens before bed time.

  9. - reflector - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:30 pm:

    @yellow dog democrat
    I too have been a Democrat all mof my life and I am 83,I’m just not so proud of it anymore.

  10. - Both Sides Now - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:39 pm:

    @ Responsa - I have often thought the General Assembly would get a lot more done if it were mandated that everyone had to switch districts for a week in the August heat and a week in a January snowstorm. Without a doubt our Legislators would have a much better understanding of the problems at hand and the impact of decisions outside of their own backyard. Do you think we could get someone to sponsor a bill during the lame duck session?

  11. - El Conquistador - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:53 pm:

    Wordslinger & Responsa - the ethanol subsidies have been eliminated.

  12. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 12:53 pm:

    @reflector -

    Great to see seniors contributing to the great public debates on CapitolFax blog.

    Wish there were more of you.

  13. - reflector - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 1:00 pm:

    Thanks YDD.I read this blog 5-6 times a day.Have read your comments,don’t always agree but like you views.

  14. - Responsa - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 1:04 pm:

    @El Conquistador–Really? You have some links for that?

  15. - El Conquistador - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 1:06 pm:

    Responsa -

  16. - jerry 101 - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 1:08 pm:

    Hmmm…it seems to me that if this facility is so vital to the business interests of Illinois that someone, somewhere, would offer to take it off the state’s hands and keep it open and keep offering these vital services…for a fee, of course.

  17. - capncrunch - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 1:54 pm:

    “..the ethanol subsidies have been elinated.”

    True, but the mandate requiring the use of ethanol has not. The head of Cargil said this AM that 40% of our corn crop is used to make ethanol. Maybe we should waive the mandate.

  18. - Cheryl - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 2:29 pm:

    So, how do you guys like our smaller government?

  19. - soccermom - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 3:01 pm:

    47th — (Shudder.)

  20. - Budget Crisis is Real - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 3:25 pm:

    At a hearing, I heard it reported that the cost to operate the Galesburg and Centralia labs is $4.7 million, while they generate revenues of $1.7 million.

    Consolidating the labs will save over $1 million of that $3 million subsidy.

    Maybe a private business can run the lab.

  21. - Palatine - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 9:52 pm:

    “Maybe a private business can run the lab” and wait and wait to get paid.

  22. - patriot - Tuesday, Jul 31, 12 @ 11:21 pm:

    It seems as though our Cook County Democrats are willing to ruin every State agency that actually serves the people and fullfills a constitutional requirement especially if it is in Southern Illinois. So unfortunately Reagan’s joke becomes much truer every day. The people of the Centralia Lab certainly are there to help and sincerely appreciate their jobs.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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