WOOSTER -- Ohio's senior senator has asked Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help rebuild the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, which sustained a lot of damage when a tornado ripped through the campus Sept. 16.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, sent the letter to Vilsack informing him the storm had serious consequences for Ohio's agricultural community and rural economy.

"Over the past five months, the university and local community have surveyed and tabulated the destruction; now I am requesting that USDA provide all possible assistance in restoring the damaged buildings at OARDC," Brown wrote.

"The OARDC has been a crucial link between agricultural producers and world-class researchers and scientists, (and) is a cornerstone of economic development for the region," Brown wrote. "A recent study showed that OARDC annually contributes more than $142 million to the Ohio economy and generates more than 1,576 jobs in the state."

Brown and Vilsack are familiar with the research center. Vilsack toured OARDC and Ohio State University's Agricultural Technical Institute in July, about two months before the tornado hit the area, and Brown visited the campus in early September with USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm & Foreign Agriculture Service Michael Scuse. They participated in a roundtable with dairy farmers.

In his letter, Brown also wanted to inform Vilsack, "Following the tornado, nearly every building on the campus sustained damage. While most buildings have considerable roof damage, three buildings and seven greenhouses were completely destroyed.

"This past October, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited OARDC and surveyed the extensive damage. After inspecting the grounds, Merrigan reiterated the need to restore the facilities so that research activities could resume. ... Bringing these critical resources back to full capacity is critical for Ohio and for the advancement of agricultural research."

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