Spending authority to keep the federal government running through Sept. 30 was put into place in time to avert another partial government shutdown, which would have begun Saturday if the budget deal had not been approved.

It means the Fiscal Year 2019 budget process is finally wrapped up, and it is time to ask about food safety funding. Congress and President Trump had to reach an agreement on the FY2019 budget to avoid another partial government shutdown. The budget deal covers the seven appropriations bills the president did not sign by the beginning of FY2019, which was Oct. 1, 2018. A total of 12 appropriations bills are involved in funding federal government operations.

Some food safety appropriations were in the unfinished work. During the recent partial government shutdown, agencies were stretched to keep the food safety umbrella in place. Now that Congress and the president have agreed to $333 billion in additional FY2019 spending, the agencies finally know how much they have to work with for the remainder of the fiscal year.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he was pleased with the funding for USDA, but said it does not go far enough.

“I am pleased that Congress has passed, and President Trump has signed, funding for USDA for the remainder of fiscal year 2019. We will be moving at full speed on all of our responsibilities, making good on our motto by doing right and feeding everyone,” Perdue said.

The Secretary endorsed President Trump’s declaration of national emergency at the southern border but also said farmers and ranchers battered by “monumental storms” and the Forest Service rocked by wildfires are going to require more from Congress.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) continued to provide on-site services at 6,433 federally regulated private slaughter and processing facilities during the recent shutdown.

Most FSIS personnel are deemed “essential” during government shutdowns because, without their continuous on-site inspections, the fresh meat and poultry industry would have to shut down. The agency:

  • FSIS employs more than 9,200 people;
  • Regulates more 250,000 different meat, poultry, and egg products;
  • Inspects 155 million head of livestock annually;
  • Inspects 9.45 billion poultry carcasses annually;
  • Conducts 6.9 million food safety and food defense checks annually;
  • Condemns each year more than 467.6 million pounds of poultry; and
  • Condemns more than 216,313 head of livestock during post-slaughter inspections.

“To accomplish its functions, FSIS employees are located at over 6,400 slaughtering and processing establishments and import houses, and other federally-regulated facilities, ” USDA budget documents say. “Headquarters is responsible for overseeing the administration of the program and ensuring that scientific and technological developments are incorporated into inspection procedures.”

For FY2019, the budget deal provides FSIS with $1.272 billion. On a year-to-year basis, FSIS budgets are among the most uniform in the federal government. In fiscal year 2018 FSIS spending totaled $1.259 billion. In FY2017, the FSIS budget was $1.279. About $1 billion each year involved discretionary spending.

With the FY2019 budget, funding for the Codex Alimentarius Office was transferred from Food Safety to the Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Mission Area. And, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, $8 million is included in the budget deal for farmer food safety training.

Just how strange federal budget issues can become was illustrated in the recent crisis by the fact that the Food and Drug Administration funding was allowed to lapse, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was funded ahead of the Oct. 1, 2018, deadline. Both are agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The uninterrupted funding meant CDC could continue to investigate past outbreaks, but the FDA was hamstrung in trying to identify new ones. The budget deal put FDA back in business with authority to spend $3.068 billion in discretionary budget authority and $2.516 billion from certain user fees for a total of $5.584 billion.

The total does not include “permanent, indefinite user fees” for some things including food and feed recalls.

For the money, FDA is expected to continue what it did last year, and the conference report did not accept proposed funding reductions, including produce safety cooperative agreements with the states.

The budget agreement provides $2.8 million more for food safety; $5 million more to deal with food safety outbreaks, $500,000 to test imported seafood for antibiotic resistance; $2 million for Standard of Identity and Product labeling; and $1.5 million for consumer education and biotechnology outreach.

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