During discussion Thursday of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s fiscal 2015 budget requests, the agency’s proposed $260 million in user fees came under attack at the House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. “In total, FDA is requesting $260 million in new fees but has failed to gain support from the stakeholders most impacted by such fees – the regulated food industry,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. “The authorizing committees have not authorized the fees, and I see little chance that that would happen during this Congress,” Aderholt added. U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) echoed that doubtful outlook by noting, “I think that it is safe to say that it is highly unlikely they will be authorized, even if we were to fully fund your discretionary appropriations request as we did for 2014.” Lowey then proceeded to ask FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg whether the agency will need more than the proposed $24-million increase requested in discretionary funding. “To make the kind of progress that we want to make in terms of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act and the new roles and responsibilities and authorities that Congress gave us … we do need the amount requested in the president’s budget overall,” Hamburg said. Aderholt also asked Hamburg why an additional $24 million would be necessary, given the final rules “will be delayed for another year.” “We believe that we can make really critical progress for it in implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, but that FY 2015 and the following year are going to be absolutely critical for that implementation,” Hamburg responded. FDA needs to start hiring new people, begin training, collaborate with states and continue outreach in order to “make this law as effective and efficient as possible,” she said. Multiple times during the hearing, Hamburg cited the Congressional Budget Office report from when FSMA was approved in 2010. That report estimated that FDA would need an increase of more than $580 million to fund its expanded food-safety activities. “The president’s request, of course, did include user fees, and we’ve been working with industry and gotten indications of support for user fees,” Hamburg said. “You are suggesting people pay a fee to receive no benefit in return,” said U.S. Rep. David Valadao (R-CA). “That sounds like a tax to me.” Referencing a letter from nearly 60 industry groups in opposition to the user fees, Valadao asked how FDA would justify them. Hamburg said that she believes there would be “value-added” in terms of “creating a system that’s focused on preventing problems before they occur, which matters to industry just as it matters to the health of the public.” “It doesn’t mean, as has been noted, that we are likely to see user fees authorized this year or the next, but I think it’s an important discussion to continue to have.”