All the lobbyists billing their respective and mostly meat industry clients made the point one more time Monday — they do not want fees replacing what the taxpayers now ante up and the government borrows to pay for food safety.
So they’ve penned a letter to the so-called “Gang of Six,” three Democratic Senators and three Republicans, working behind closed doors to see if they can pull America’s fiscal airplane out of a nosedive before it all crashes into one big pile.
The agribusiness lobbyists are worried the “Gang of Six” might be getting ideas from the Obama Administration, which has put forth a plan for taxes and fees on the food business that the industry says are “the cause of grave concern.”
The Obama Administration plans to submit legislation, which has upset the industry, to create two types of fees, according to a budget summary from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.
A mandatory fee would cover the estimated cost of services the federal government provides for risk assessments, hazard analyses, inspection planning, compliance review, enforcement, technology support and at risk communication.
There would be a second fee based on performance that would cover additional inspections, including food safety assessments, follow-up sampling, and additional inspections required in the event of an outbreak of disease.
But 25 of the nation’s mostly meat industry organizations wrote the “Gang of Six” Monday in a broad effort to kill the Obama Administration’s ideas about fiscal responsibility.
“Meat, poultry and egg product inspection is a public health and safety program required by federal law and has been funded through tax dollars for over a century,” said the letter addressed to “Gang of Six” Chairman Kent Conrad, D-ND.
“Food safety inspection benefits everyone and therefore should be paid for through appropriated funds. Inspection fees will make the current equitable funding mechanism inherently regressive, since low and middle-income families spend a higher portion of their income on food than do wealthier Americans. Furthermore, any proposal to transform government-funded food safety inspection provides less accountability for the government to manage program costs, results and efficiencies.”
Earlier, the co-chairs of the Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, proposed putting the meat industry on a diet of fees. The full commission, however, dropped the idea from its final report.
Signing the meat industry’s “Gang of Six” letter were: American Association of Meat Processors, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Frozen Food Institute, American Meat Institute, American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), Eastern Meat Packers Association, Illinois Association of Meat Processors, Indiana Meat Packers and Processors Association (IMPPA), Iowa Meat Processors Association, Mid-States Meat Association, Missouri Association of Meat Processors, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Frozen Pizza Institute, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, Nebraska Association of Meat Processors, North American Meat Processors Association, Ohio Association of Meat Processors, Shelf-Stable Food Processors Association, Southeastern Food Processors Association, Southeastern Meat Association, Southwest Meat Association, and United Egg Association.
Currently about 41 cents out of every dollar required to provide food safety services is borrowed by the government and added to the nation’s $14 trillion debt. Taxpayers pay the other 59 cents.
Federal inspection services are now provided without charge to the industry at more than 2,000 processing plants for cattle, calves, hogs, sheep and lambs.