President Trump may have proposed a “skinny budget” for most domestic spending, including food and agricultural program for the next fiscal year, but nobody is taking it seriously. Congress always reacts to presidential budgets with the same three words: “Dead on Arrival.”
For more serious guide posts, it’s always better to look at what the serious organizations —the ones involved with federal spending — are up to. For food and agricultural programs, including food safety, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) stays in the thick of the federal budget.
NASDA, a bipartisan organization built around the appointed and elected state agricultural directors an commissioners, is out with a letter to congressional budget leadership that lays down some markers on spending needs when the next federal fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
In the letter, NASDA says state governments need an annual additional $100 million a year for “sufficient funding” for Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) implementation.
“While FDA is charged with writing the rules, significant implementation and enforcement activities under FSMA are the primary responsibilities of state agencies,” NASDA’s letter to budget writers says.
“It is crucial that Congress provide sufficient resources so as to avoid unfunded mandates on the states and to ensure farmers have the tools and education necessary to comply with these new federal requirements.”
NASDA also says it “continues to insist that FDA get the rules right. The combination of problematic elements of these regulations coupled with inadequate funding for their implementation will ultimately subject producers to inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement, putting their farms in economic jeopardy while doing little, if anything to enhance food safety. Funding to ensure parity between imported and domestic food is also necessary.”
State agricultural directors and commissioners see the additional $100 million annually as necessary to “ensure the systematic and timely implementation of the elements of FSMA for which state have primary responsibility.”
“To date, funding for states has focused on implementing the Produce Safety Rule, but funding is also necessary for the development and operation of programs associated with the Preventive Controls: Human Food and Preventive Controls: Animal Food rules.”
NASDA estimates the following funding levels for state programs are necessary:
- Produce Safety $40 million annually for state programs
- Preventive Controls for animal food $20 million annually for state programs
- Preventive Controls for human food $40 million annually for state programs
In another food safety area, NASDA wants the budget prohibitions on USDA horse meat inspections removed and $63 million for state Food Safety and Inspection restored. The letter says the funding is “critical for states that provide state meat inspections under a variety of programs regulated by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).”
On horse meat, they want an end to the use of on again, off again budget provision to prevent USDA from equine inspections. The letter points to a 2011 GAO study that found removal of USDA from horse meat inspections resulted in widespread starvation, abandonment of horses and unnecessary suffering of horses and horses becoming unwanted and being shipped to farther processing plants in Canada and Mexico.
No horse meat slaughter or processing remains in the United States, and during the last period when USDA could have provided inspections, a handful of proposals for such facilities fell through for a variety of reasons.
The Trump proposal cuts USDA by about $4.7 billion as part of about $54 billion the president wants to shift from domestic to defense programs without raising taxes. Many of those domestic cuts, however, would come out of international programs. USDA, for example, is being asked to “zero out” the bipartisan McGovern-Dole program for funding international school lunch programs.
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