Key House Republicans released a proposal late last week to cut $58 billion from the federal budget for the second half of Fiscal Year 2011. Food safety programs at both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture could face steep cuts.

Under the plan, the committee that oversees both FDA and USDA budgets is asked to cut spending by 14 percent, compared with fiscal year 2010, which comes out to $3.2 billion. The proposal applies only to non-security discretionary

spending–the Defense Department, Homeland Security, and Veterans

Affairs are excluded.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said his committee, and each of the 12 subcommittees, will go “line by line to weed out and eliminate unnecessary, wasteful, or excess spending–and produce legislation that will represent the largest series of spending reductions in the history of Congress.” Rogers said the subcommittees have been instructed to produce “specific, substantive and comprehensive spending cuts.”

The committee has a lot of work to do and not much time. The current continuing resolution funding the federal government expires March 3, and any budget passed by the House must also clear the Senate and the president. It is very possible lawmakers will seek another short term fix to allow more time for wrangling over specific cuts.

Jack Kingston (R-GA), chair of the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, has named FDA as a target for spending cuts, even though the Congressional Budget Office estimates the agency will need approximately $1.4 billion in additional funds over the next five years to implement the sweeping new food safety law.

“Do you really need to spend almost $1.5 billion, which is a huge increase for a budget of $2.5 billion, which is what they have now,” said Kingston in a January interview. “You’re not necessarily doubling the size of FDA, but certainly giving them a substantial increase, maybe more than they’ll be able to absorb in the same level of efficiency and effectiveness.”

Consumer and food industry groups are lobbying Congress to give FDA the funding to implement its new mandate.

The Alliance for a Stronger FDA has three full days of meetings lined up this week on Capitol Hill, particularly focused on the House, to “raise concern over potential cuts to FDA’s budget.”