Murray State University’s (MSU) new Breathitt Veterinary Center was recently dedicated as a capacity crowd of collegiate, government and agriculture leaders gathered marking the occasion. The new 77,000-square-foot facility, located in Hopkinsville, is one of the most modern animal diagnostic veterinarian labs in the country with 53,000 square feet of diagnostic space and the only Biosafety Level III suite for veterinary use in Kentucky. The center is also accredited by the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians and is part of the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) worked to help secure funding for the project making it one of its priority issues from the onset of discussions about the new center.
KFB Executive Vice-President David S. Beck addressed the audience providing a history of the center from its earliest days which began in 1967 to the dedication of the new facility. He said of the event, it was a great day for MSU and a great day for Kentucky agriculture. “Kentucky Farm Bureau has been involved since day-one from a policy standpoint and it has been a priority on our legislative agenda to seek the funding necessary to bring this about,” said Beck. “This facility does a lot for Kentucky. In addition to being involved in animal disease diagnostics, it also has an impact on human health and economic development.
Beck pointed out the growth of the livestock industry in Kentucky, especially the poultry sector and how beneficial the lab has been in helping to build that industry. “This lab was key in making that opportunity come about and not only does it lend itself to assisting the livestock producers from an economic development perspective, it serves as a facility that will make sure we are on top of any kind of disease that could impact our huge agriculture industry.”
Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin attended the ceremony reiterating to the crowd how important this center is and will be to the Commonwealth in safeguarding its animal agriculture industry. He also read an official written acclamation presented to the Breathitt Veterinary Center Director Dr. Debbie Reed and MSU President Robert Davies recognizing the center and its many functions in aiding the veterinarian and agriculture industries.
Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles also participated in the ceremony. He said the new center uses state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to provide vital services for Kentucky’s livestock and poultry producers.
“As large and small animal agriculture continues to play an important role in the economic health of Kentucky, having a facility like this gives us a distinct advantage,” said Quarles. “The Breathitt Veterinary Center helps protect our industry from foreign animal disease and provides diagnostic services to enable producers and veterinarians to care for their animals. Kentucky’s investment in this new laboratory will pay off many times over.”
Dr. Tony Brannon, Dean of MSU’s Hutson School of Agriculture said the new center will serve in many capacities including educational, agricultural and economic development aspects.
“The new building has served as a great impetus for the further development of the animal industry in Kentucky and the protection of our food supply, as well,” he said. “This facility was designed by the people who previously designed all the new veterinarian diagnostic labs, and we have the newest and most state-of-the-art. But the facility is only part of it; you’ve got to have good people. We have good leadership under Dr. Reed and give homage to Dr. Wade Northington, our former director.”
Brannon also noted how important partnerships have been in making the new center a reality.
“This facility is an important part of Murray State but we couldn’t have done this on our own. If it hadn’t been for the partnership with Kentucky Farm Bureau, we wouldn’t be standing here talking about it today,” he said.
Northington, who served as the director of the center from 2004 until 2015, said upon taking the director’s job at the previous center, it was readily apparent it had become obsolete.
“It really became my passion to pursue getting the funding in order to replace that facility with this beautiful, state-of-the-art, most modern laboratory facility in North America,” he said. “But it was very much a learning process for me about how to start to build the broad level of support that it was going to take.”
Northington, added that one of the ﬁrst groups approached to help get this done was KFB.
“Kentucky Farm Bureau is the voice of agriculture in this state and certainly has a long-standing, respected presence in the legislature,” he said. “They were able to provide us with wise council about how to present this project to help people understand the value and importance of what we were trying to accomplish. We really would not have been where we are today without the help and assistance from them.”
While animal health and education are paramount in the mission of the Breathitt Veterinary Center, its presence in West Kentucky will be a beneﬁ t to the economic well-being of rural development and job opportunities.
“This facility will be a magnet to attract jobs and economic development of other types of industries. It can serve agriculture but other areas, too,” said Beck. “That would improve our economy ultimately providing jobs that would help keep families on the farm and improve net farm income. We are excited about that and I believe with a favorable tax policy, less regulations and more partnerships we can see some good things for Kentucky.”