October 2009

Effective September 8, 2009, livestock samples, specimens, live or dead animals from the entire state should be sent or delivered directly to the Frederick Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory.

Ongoing operating budget shortfalls (nearly $500,000 in 2009) along with a long-term services evaluation have led the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to consolidate the state’s Animal Health field and laboratory services. In September, MDA closed the College Park, Centreville, and Oakland Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratories, with the work and staff shifted to the laboratory facilities in Frederick and in Salisbury on October 1, 2009. The Frederick facility will specialize in livestock diagnostics and the Salisbury facility will continue to focus on poultry work. Together, these two facilities will offer all of the livestock and poultry diagnostics previously available.

The operating budget shortfall in the laboratory system was caused by decreased revenues from diagnostic services, decreased federal support, the state budget deficit along with steady increases in costs to operate the laboratories (fuel, maintenance, supplies, salaries, etc). These years of revenue decline have been accompanied by reductions in staffing and certain services. It has become clear that MDA can no longer continue to operate, maintain and staff five laboratories in Maryland. This trend precedes the current state revenue shortfall.

In addition to the changes in the Animal Health Laboratory system, the Maryland Department of Agriculture is impacted by the budget reductions made today by the Board of Public Works. The Board took cuts totaling $1.13 million, including $383,000 associated with seven positions that are being abolished.

The cuts directly affecting the horse industry are as follows:
– Eliminate three animal health laboratory staff as part of the consolidation of the Animal Health facilities. Two positions are filled and one is vacant.
– Absorb Manure Transportation responsibilities into the Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) staff duties and eliminate the vacant Manure Transportation administrator position.