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

News Releaese from the Maryland Department of Agriculture
State Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory System to be Consolidated
State Budget Cuts to Impact MDA Services and Personnel

ANNAPOLIS, MD (August 26, 2009) – On-going operating budget shortfalls (nearly $500,000 in 2009) along with a long-term services evaluation has led the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) to consolidate the state’s Animal Health field and laboratory services. On September 8, MDA will begin closing the College Park, Centreville, and Oakland Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratories. During September, operations at these three facilities will be phased out, with the work and staff shifted to the laboratory facilities in Frederick and in Salisbury by 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 State has decided to move the work to these separate facilities as they house specialized equipment for each job. For example, one facility may have a rotary evaporator whereas the other may not. It depends on the work that will be carried out at the site.

“While this transition has involved some very difficult decisions, we are certain that the result will be a laboratory system which is more robust and capable of providing world-class diagnostic services to our producers and their industries,” said Agriculture Secretary Buddy Hance. “At the same time, we will be in a better position to meet the regulatory, emergency response and animal health charges of the agency.”
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.

Effective September 8, 2009, livestock samples, specimens, live or dead animals from the entire state should now be sent or delivered directly to the Frederick Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. The address of the laboratory is 1840 Rosemont Avenue, Frederick, MD 21702. The telephone number is 301.600.1548; Fax 301.600.6111 and the email address is AHFrederick@mda.state.md.us. The Frederick Laboratory will soon be approved to perform basic avian influenza diagnostics and will be able to support most basic non-commercial poultry in Maryland west of the Bay.

Commercial poultry samples from the entire state and non-commercial poultry samples originating from the Eastern Shore of Maryland will continue to be sent to the Salisbury Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory. The address is 27722 Nanticoke Road, Salisbury, MD 21801. The telephone number is 410.543.6610, Fax 410.543.6676 and the email is AHSalisbury@mda.state.md.us.
Details of any services or changes can be viewed at www.mda.state.md.us/animal_health/.

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.
“These cuts are very difficult. They are affecting our agency staff personally as well as services to the agricultural community,” said Secretary Hance. “MDA is a small agency with an outstanding workforce. We have done and will continue to do everything we know to avoid personnel cuts and the resulting service reductions.”

The cuts are as follows:
· Reduction of funding for the Maryland Agricultural and Resource-Based Industry Development Corporation (MARBIDCO) small business entrepreneurial grants and loans that help save the working farm and forest lands. ($650,000).
· The use of fee-based Special Funds to replace State General Funds for a Weights and Measures laboratory position. ($52,000).
· Reversion of funding from the Maryland Agricultural Fair Board. ($45,000)
· Elimination of seven positions – 2 vacant and 5 filled ($383,000):
1. Eliminate the “blacklight trap” survey program used by farmers, university researchers, and MDA to monitor for the presence of agricultural pests. This cut causes the elimination of a filled position.
2. Abolish one filled position and subsequently reduce technical support to water management efforts by Public Drainage Associations (PDAs) on the low-lying Eastern Shore.
3. Reduce staff of the Seafood Marketing Office by abolishing one filled positions and shift responsibilities to existing staff.
4. Eliminate three animal health laboratory staff as part of the consolidation of the Animal Health facilities. Two positions are filled and one is vacant.
5. Absorb Manure Transportation responsibilities into the Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) staff duties and eliminate the vacant Manure Transportation administrator position.