Fresno Animal Health and Food Safety Lab closing

by Bryan Salvage
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FRESNO, CALIF. — On July 19, the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System, managed by the University of California, Davis, is closing its 59-year-old Fresno laboratory due to budget shortfalls. The lab system provides diagnostic services for diseases in livestock, poultry and horses to veterinarians and animal producers in California.

Closing the Fresno laboratory will affect more than 20 employees, resulting in reassigning three faculty positions to the system’s labs in Tulare and Davis and laying off the remaining scientific and administrative personnel. Diagnostic testing will be transferred to other facilities in the laboratory system.

Bennie Osburn, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which operates the laboratory network, said he is proud of the Fresno laboratory's long service to California, particularly to the agricultural industry of the southern San Joaquin Valley. "Unfortunately, reduced state funding combined with rising costs to manage a sophisticated laboratory system have left it struggling to maintain services," he added.

Managed by UC Davis since 1987, the laboratory system has its reference lab at UC Davis and branch laboratories in Turlock, Fresno, Tulare and San Bernardino. The network of diagnostic labs receives approximately 80% of its funding from a contract with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The rest of its revenue comes from fee-for-service testing provided to veterinarians and agricultural producers.

Rising costs and a reduction in the contract with the state during 2008-2009, compounded by the weak economy, have left the system with a projected funding deficit exceeding $2 million in 2009-2010.

Over the years, the Fresno branch laboratory has provided a full range of testing services including poultry disease monitoring, as well as surveillance for brucellosis, tuberculosis and avian viruses. Following the lab’s closure, brucellosis surveillance and poultry pathology will be carried out at the Tulare laboratory. Diagnostic tests for viruses in poultry will be conducted at the laboratory at UC Davis, while blood and serum tests will be done at the Turlock laboratory.

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