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Administration Threatens Veto for House Appropriations Bill

The Obama administration is threatening to veto a house agriculture spending bill that would cut funding for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and provide a small increase for food safety funding.

The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a Statement of Administration Policy on Monday that strongly objects to the bill’s significant cuts to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, international food aid, agriculture research, and nutrition programs — saying that the House’s decision to slash discretionary funding below Budget Control Act levels would “cost jobs and hurt average Americans” and “degrade many of the basic Government services.”

“The bill severely undermines key investments in financial oversight in a manner that would cripple Wall Street reform. It also imposes harmful cuts in rural economic development, renewable energy development, nutrition programs, food safety, and international food aid,” reads the statement. “Investing in these areas is critical to the Nation’s economic growth, security, and global competitiveness.”

The administration takes issue with a couple cuts that would impact food safety.

The statement said the reduction in agriculture and food research grants, from $325 to $277 million, “would prevent USDA from fully responding to the serious challenges of climate change, world food hunger, food safety, human nutrition, and sustainable bioenergy.”

The House bill would also reduce overall funding for FDA by $16 million, compared to fiscal year 2012, but does call for a $10 million boost over what the administration requested for discretionary food safety funds.

The memo calls for robust funding for the agency “to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act,” which President Obama signed into law a year and a half ago, and calls on the House to adopt new user fees.

Though the House bill does increase resources for food safety, it’s a small fraction of what FSMA was estimated to cost. According to the Congressional Budget Office, rolling out FSMA will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.4 billion over five years.

The administration said new user fees are “essential” for FDA’s “critical mission to make food and medical products safer, and increase access to safe and effective generic drugs and biologics.” The food industry, while supportive of FSMA, is generally very opposed to food safety fees.

The House is expected to consider the appropriations bill this week, or shortly after the July 4 recess.

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