Question 2 on the 2012 Maine ballot calls for an $11.3 million bond to support the University of Maine’s System. Should the bond pass, UMaine would receive $7.8 million to build a larger, more secure animal and plant diagnostic facility. UMaine’s Animal and Plant Diagnostic Services provide inexpensive diagnostic testing for hundreds of Maine farmers and some state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services and Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
In 2010, there was a national egg recall. Not a single egg was recalled in Maine because of Maine’s testing protocols, developed by scientists at the APDS labs.
“Had there been a problem, our surveillance would have picked it up before it went to market,” said John Rebar, executive director of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
UMaine often uses specimens from the APDS labs as teaching tools, particularly for students in the animal and veterinary sciences. Students are brought into the lab to look at cadavers of infected and uninfected animals.
Rebar says the bond measure is good for the state economically. APDS employs students on campus. Farmers who pay minimal prices for diagnostic tests will help keep their prices down by using their tax dollars to help build a larger facility that can handle more requests.
“The economic activity that’s going to be supported and created as a result of having this facility is over time going to negate the cost to the taxpayer,” Rebar said.
The larger facility is important because of Maine’s agricultural growth. Maine is one of the few states that has added farms in the last 10 years. Since 2000, Maine added over 1,000 farms, according to Rebar.
“If you’re a farmer in Maine, and you’ve got a disease problem and you rely on us for timely information, it could mean the difference between success or failure,” Rebar said.
A species of deer, not native to Maine, recently moved into the state and brought with them a disease called lungworm. This disease spread to moose, and the ADPS scientists are trying to figure out why and how to prevent the spread.
The current labs can’t bring a whole moose into the lab to test for diseases. Instead, scientists must bring tissue samples to the lab. This is problematic for running comprehensive tests, such as identifying lungworm.
The new lab would be able to properly dispose of infected animals. The labs currently store animals in freezers and pay high fees to have them shipped to proper facilities to be destroyed.
Question 2 also benefits Maine’s community colleges and Maine Maritime Academy: $3.5 million would help the colleges make necessary repairs and build new facilities in Brunswick, Maine.