USDA’s new National Biological Control Center has received a federal grant to begin research on biological control measures for that scourge of the Delta region, disease-bearing mosquitoes.

Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the funding for the USDA Agricultural Research Service facility, which is located in Stoneville, Miss.

The NBCC, which opened last spring, is dedicated to identifying and developing naturally occurring pathogens of harmful insects, diseases, and plants. It will utilize the funds to begin a multi-year project aimed at the reduction of mosquito populations.

Mosquitoes have been shown to be carriers of a number of diseases — yellow fever, malaria and encephalitis — that have had a negative impact on the health of residents of the lower Mississippi Valley throughout its history. The latest — West Nile Virus — has caused a number of deaths in the Mid-South and other regions.

“This virus is a very serious threat to public health,” said Cochran, who was also instrumental in the creation of the National Biological Control Center. “I was pleased we were able to include an increase in funding for research at the National Biological Control Laboratory in Stoneville to help prevent illness and death related to the West Nile virus.”

Delta Council leaders said the Cochran’s action would have long-range benefits for the region.

“Once again, Sen. Cochran has identified a critical need and matched it with a science capability which will hopefully improve human health, the environment, and quality of life throughout the entire Lower Mississippi Valley and other areas of the Nation,” said Bowen Flowers, chairman of the Delta Council Advisory Research Committee.

Throughout the history of the Lower Mississippi River Valley, extending from Cairo, Ill., to New Orleans, mosquitoes have transmitted infectious diseases and severely imposed restrictions on the quality of life of those who live, raise families, and do business in the region for many generations, he said.

“As a carrier of West Nile virus, the mosquito has claimed lives and essentially gone unchecked insofar as any concentrated effort to reduce the incidence of the cause of West Nile, instead of treating the symptoms.”