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White House Threatens to Veto House Ag Appropriations Bill

The Obama administration said on Tuesday it would likely veto the House agriculture appropriations bill, just as versions of the funding provisions are moving through both the House and Senate.

“The bill severely undermines key investments in financial oversight in a manner that would cripple Wall Street reform, and impedes implementation of statutorily-mandated financial regulations,” the statement of administration policy stated. “It also imposes harmful cuts in rural economic development, renewable energy development, nutrition programs, food safety, agricultural research, and international food aid. Investing in these areas is critical to the Nation’s economic growth, security, and global competitiveness. If the President were presented with H.R. 2410, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The administration issued a few pages of reasons, including a handful related to food safety:

- The Administration urges the Congress to fund school meal equipment competitive grants, which would help school districts purchase the equipment needed to serve healthier meals, improve food safety, expand access to meals, and improve energy efficiency.

- The Administration opposes the funding level for FSIS. In addition to a nearly $10 million reduction from the President’s Budget request, the Committee bill forces FSIS to absorb $9 million in rental costs by not providing the necessary funding. These cuts will significantly impact USDA’s ability to adequately inspect food processing plants and prevent foodborne diseases from contaminating America’s meat, poultry, and egg product supply. Over 80 percent of FSIS’s employees are frontline inspectors and the Committee’s recommendation may require the agency to furlough. Decreased FSIS inspections will disrupt industry production.

- The Administration urges the House to include the requested $155 million to fully fund a high priority poultry biosafety and laboratory facility. State-of-the-art research facilities to replace USDA’s aging laboratory infrastructure are key to the Department’s ability to meet research challenges of the 21st Century.

- The Administration appreciates reinstatement of the Federal ban on horse slaughter and looks forward to working with the Congress to complete work on this important legislation.

- The Administration strongly supports robust funding for FDA to continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act and to modernize regulatory science to support medical product innovation. The Administration is concerned that the Committee bill provides $4.3 billion in total resources for FDA, which is $342 million below the President’s request, and does not include new proposed user fees. The Administration urges the Congress to enact new user fees proposed in the FY 2014 Budget, which would provide significant additional resources to enhance FDA regulatory capacity, as well as provide benefits to industry, advance the Nation’s food safety system, and continue implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. While the Administration appreciates the funding to continue the development of the FDA Life Sciences/Biodefense laboratory in White Oak, Maryland, the overall reductions in budget authority will limit FDA’s ability to oversee the safety and quality of Nation’s food and medical products and threaten the agency’s ability to improve and maintain FDA’s other critical facilities.

Public health groups have not expressed concerns about the House proposal. As Food Safety News reported, some interests even praised the committee for giving FDA a $27 million increase.

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