The Obama administration expressed “serious concerns” Monday about the agriculture appropriations bill for fiscal year 2012 the House is expected to vote on today. The spending bill, which was recently approved by the House Appropriations Committee, contains significant cuts to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
In a Statement of Administration Policy, the White House said that though the final legislative outcome remains unclear, the bill before Congress provides “insufficient” funding for a number of government programs in a way that “undermines core government functions.” The administration lists several programs would be “adversely affected” by the bill, including: Food and Nutrition Service, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, in addition to food safety functions.
“The Administration is committed to ensuring the Nation lives within its means and reducing the deficit so that the Nation can compete in the global economy and win the future,” read the statement. “That is why the President put forth a comprehensive fiscal framework that reduces the deficit by $4 trillion, supports economic growth and long-term job creation, protects critical investments, and meets the commitments made to provide dignity and security to Americans no matter their circumstances.”
On the food safety front, specifically, the administration cites concern over an almost $35 million cut to the Food Safety Inspection Service, which will “significantly hamper” USDA’s ability to inspect food processing plants and keep dangerous pathogens out of the food supply.
“The Committee’s recommendation may require the agency to furlough employees including frontline inspectors which make up over 80 percent of FSIS staff,” continues the statement. “By reducing FSIS inspections, food processing plants may be forced to reduce line speeds, which could lead to decreasing product output and profits, as well as plant closures.”
The administration also expressed concern about the funding proposed for FDA, which is $87 million below FY 2011 for food regulatory functions – -and $205 million below President Obama’s FY 12 budge request — at a time when the agency is expected to implement a sweeping update of the nation’s food safety laws.
The White House is concerned that the proposed funding level and resulting staff reductions will “severely limit the FDA’s ability to protect the public’s health, assure the American consumer that food and medical products are safe, and improve Americans’ access to safe and less costly generic drugs and biologics.”
“The Administration strongly opposes inclusion of ideological and political provisions that are beyond the scope of funding legislation,” the statement says. “The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process moves forward to ensure the Administration can support enactment of the legislation.”
The House is expected to vote on the bill today.
Photo from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service© Food Safety News