Defining the Need for the NAHLN
The nation's public health and food supply is at constant risk from accidental or malicious introduction of exotic animal diseases. The threats include conspicuous agents like foot and mouth disease (FMD), as well as less familiar agents that affect animals and humans, such as avian influenza, anthrax, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and West Nile virus.
The Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act of 2002, Section 335 authorizes the Secretary of Agriculture to develop an agricultural early warning surveillance system to counteract these growing risks. Congress has the authority to appropriate funding for this effort.
Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD-9) on the Defense of United States Agriculture and Food (2004) specifically directs the USDA to develop a comprehensive and fully coordinated surveillance and monitoring system for animal disease, as well as a nationwide laboratory network that integrates and interconnects existing Federal and State laboratory resources and utilizes standardized diagnostic protocols and procedures.
Establishing the Network
In response to these petitions, the USDA Safeguarding Review identified the need for a state-of-the-art National Animal Health Laboratory Network ( NAHLN) which would coordinate Federal laboratory capacity with the extensive infrastructure (facilities, professional expertise, and support) of State-supported laboratories.
Special funds for Homeland Security were awarded by APHIS and Cooperative State Research, Education & Extension System (CSREES*) through CSREES. Cooperative agreements were awarded in May 2002 to 12 State/University diagnostic laboratory facilities for a 2-year period to develop capacity and surveillance programs for eight high priority foreign animal diseases. The Network has grown rapidly since then, supported by APHIS and CSREES funding.
* CSREES was reorganized in 2009 and is now part of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).