WASHINGTON, June 24, 2015 –Given the tight spending limits congressional appropriators are facing, it’s unusual to find many areas of the budget that would get more money. The House’s fiscal 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is no exception. It would cut spending on discretionary programs by $175 million from fiscal 2015 to $20.65 billion. So it’s notable that the Appropriations Committee is giving an increase to the FDA for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
The increase would amount to $41.5 million under the House bill, still short of the extra $109.5 million the FDA is requesting for FSMA implementation. The increase comes as a range of industry groups, including the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, united behind the agency’s request for more money.
In a letter in April, those groups and companies such as Campbell’s, Tyson Foods, Kellogg and Costco wrote appropriators in support of FDA’s request, saying the enforcement funding was needed to “maintain consumer confidence in the safety and integrity” of the food supply.
FDA is under court-ordered deadlines to finalize the seven rules the agency needs to carry out the law’s requirements. The first two of those rules, which will require processors to have preventive controls for human and animal foods, must be released by Aug. 30. Final rules on produce safety, foreign supplier verification programs, and accreditation of third party auditors are due by Oct. 31. Final rules for transportation and intentional adulteration are due next March 31 and May 31, respectively.
The rules on preventive controls and produce safety have gone to the Office of Management and Budget for final review.
“FDA’s FSMA regulations – and consumer safety – are critically dependent on a properly funded FSMA implementation plan,” said Jim Gorny, vice president of food safety and technology for PMA.
“Much work remains to train, educate and implement FSMA by both FDA and the food industry,” Gorny said. “We recognize the resource limitations faced by the Appropriations Committee and look forward to working with them and FDA to make the case for full funding for FSMA implementation.”
The extra money is critical for the training and other assistance the agency needs to retrain inspectors and to bring in technical expertise to assist farmers and processors with compliance, says Sandra Eskin, food safety director for the Pew Charitable Trusts. Without more funding, implementation of the import requirements is likely to be put off until last, she said. Priority will be put on the preventive controls and produce standards. “It’s discouraging that we may not see the import rules really in effect for a number of years,” she said.
The House Appropriations Committee was due to mark up the bill on Thursday, but the meeting was postponed so lawmakers can attend funeral services for the victims of the Charleston church shootings.
The Senate Appropriations Committee is expected to roll out its Agriculture bill next month. The spending caps could be raised but that will require a deal between congressional Republicans and the White House. Senate Democrats are threatening to filibuster all of the appropriations bills until Republicans agree to raise the limits, which were set according to the caps in the 2011 budget law.
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