The sequestration slated to take effect at the first of the year is “bad policy,” and Congress should avoid it by taking action on deficit reduction, says a recent analysis by the White House Office of Management and Budget.
A nearly 400 page document released late last week by the administration warns of the impact budget cuts would have on all areas of government, including food safety at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
The administration notes that there is still time for Congress to come up with an alternate deficit reduction plan to avert the automatic cuts, which were put in place after the so-called supercommittee failed to come up with a plan after a contentious fight over raising the debt ceiling in the Summer of 2011.
“No amount of planning can mitigate the significant impact of the sequestration,” reads the report. “The destructive across-the-board cuts required by the sequestration are not a substitute for a responsible deficit reduction plan.” The report concludes that sequestration would “undermine investments vital to economic growth” as well as “threaten the safety and security of the American people.”
If sequestration occurs, just about every non-defense agency will take around an 8 percent cut next fiscal year, and food safety agencies are no exception.
With sequestration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would take an 8.2 percent cut, meaning that of the agency’s approximately $1 billion budget, the agency would have to do without 86 million.
As the report puts it, the USDA’s efforts to “inspect food processing plants and prevent foodborne illnesses would be curtailed.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration would also take an 8.2 percent cut to it’s overall budget of approximately $3.9 billion. According to the OMB’s assessment, the FDA would have to shave $318 million out of its budget. It does not specify how much of that would come from FDA’s food regulatory program, which is currently trying to ramp up its capacity to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act.
As the Alliance for a Stronger FDA recently argued in their update on the impact of sequestration, FDA will be greatly impacted by the cuts.
“We have (gently) argued and even convinced many staffers that responsible, fiscally prudent government is founded on making tough choices about national priorities,” writes Stephen Grossman, deputy executive director of the Alliance. “Subtracting money from every program just weakens vital programs and prolongs the life of less important programs. Our view has been that FDA should/will come out near the top if federal resources are allocated on the basis of merit and importance.”
The OMB urges Congress to act to avoid the sequestration, but it is not clear whether lawmakers will be able to strike a deal. In addition to the partisan divide, there is not much time to reach a deal with the election around the corner.
The report adds: “The Administration remains ready to work with Congress to enact a balanced plan that achieves at least the level of deficit reduction agreed to in the [Budget Control Act], and cancels the sequestration.”© Food Safety News