July 05, 2017

Sen. Tammy Duckworth: Peoria ag lab is important for national security

Source: Peoria Journal-Star


PEORIA — A bipartisan push to restore funding for the federal research laboratory in Peoria to the proposed Trump administration budget has focused largely on agricultural and economic implications.

But U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., on Wednesday framed the maintenance of the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research — more commonly known as the ag lab — as an issue also vital to the security of the country.

“This is really an issue of national security importance,” Duckworth said at the Peoria County Farm Bureau after touring the federal facility at the corner of North University Street and West Nebraska Avenue.

“There are places to cut, but this ag research center here in Peoria is not the place to do it,” Duckworth added.

The ag lab is one of four such research facilities created by federal decree more than 75 years ago. Scientists in Peoria famously developed the process to mass-produce penicillin, but research conducted in the decades since has had a quiet but vast impact on the American agricultural landscape and economy.

Research conducted in Peoria has helped make soybeans the second largest row crop in the United States and led to the development of a cancer drug.

The Trump budget proposal released in May called for complete closure of the Peoria lab as part of deep cuts to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Local, state and federal officials of all political persuasions have since publicly opposed the closure and petitioned the White House to reverse course.

Under the current federal spending plan, funding for the lab and the hundreds of scientists who work there is secure through the end of September.

Discontinuing research at the ag lab could stymie future developments that would benefit farmers and make them less competitive with other producers across the globe, Duckworth said.

In combination with other Trump proposals to cut nutrition programs and rural development, farmers and others in the agriculture economy stand to lose more than others, she added.

“The White House’s cuts will cut jobs and rural development programs,” Duckworth said. “These across the board cuts are going to hurt our farmers — across the country and here in Illinois.”

By:  Matt Buedel