After five years of planning, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is getting closer to constructing a new poultry research laboratory in Georgia, according to a recent report by Industrial Information Resources (IIR).

The new $50 million 40,000 square foot USDA laboratory will consist of an animal wing, laboratory space and an administration area, Houston-based IIR says. Final design plans are being tweaked, mainly to address security issues at the new facility, before the project proposal goes before Congress for approval, the report says.

A site for the poultry research lab has not been disclosed by the USDA. The agency already has a facility in Athens, GA, called the Southeastern Poultry Research Lab. The building is more than 40 years old and on the campus of University of Georgia (UGA). It conducts research on diseases that afflict poultry and humans, focusing on basic and applied research in diagnostics, prevention and control strategies; prediction of disease outbreaks; molecular epidemiology and understanding disease pathogenesis.

In March, reports surfaced of a proposed reorganization of the USDA’s poultry research laboratories that could increase the size of the department’s unit in Athens by 50 percent with a new $99 million research building. Under a proposal in the 2002-03 federal budget, a USDA lab in Michigan would be dismantled and about 25 jobs would be transferred to Athens to join a team of researchers, lab technicians and support staff about 50-strong already.

Athens already has some of the world’s top poultry researchers, not just at the federal facility but also at UGA. And several large poultry or poultry-related companies operate in the Athens area, such as producers ConAgra and Gold Kist, along with animal pharmaceutical giant Merial, which recently moved its North American headquarters to Atlanta.

Industrial Information Resources: www.industrialinfo.com

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture: www.usda.gov