Late Tuesday night, the House of Representatives released a $1.1-trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30, 2016. Lobbyists for full funding of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) were pleased with the numbers.
The Food and Drug Administration will receive a total of $2.72 billion in discretionary funding in the bill. Within this total, food safety activities are increased by $104.5 million.
The president’s budget request for fiscal year 2016 asked for a $109.5-million increase for FDA. The House’s spending bill is much closer to matching that request than the $41.5-million and $45-million increases allocated for FDA’s food safety activities by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, respectively.
“We are thrilled,” said Sandra Eskin, director of food safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Congress understands that this is a pivotal year for FSMA implementation and they responded accordingly.”
She credits the leaders of the Agriculture Appropriations Committees — Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS) — and their staffs for understanding what FDA needed “to get the job done on food safety.”
The legislation also includes more than $1 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) — $1.6 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level, but $3.3 million above the president’s request.
There’s also a provision to repeal mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL) requirements for certain meat products.
Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) authorized Canada and Mexico to impose on the U.S. $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs for COOL. While many organizations and members of Congress want the requirement repealed as soon as possible to avoid tariffs, Food & Water Watch and R-CALF USA disagree.
“Congress is forsaking consumers and producers by terminating the right of U.S. citizens to know the origins of their food,” said Bill Bullard, CEO for R-CALF USA. “We urge members of Congress to demand that the COOL repeal language be removed from the spending bill. If it is not removed, then we will urge the President to veto the measure.”
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) supported both the increased FSMA funding and the COOL repeal.
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