This week, the House of Representatives made public a spending bill that will fund the federal government until the end of September 2016, which marks the end of the fiscal year. Included in the $1.1 billion bill are plans to fully fund the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
$2.94 billion for agricultural research–This will pay for agricultural research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Increased funding is provided to help stop and mitigate devastating crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, and address issues related to drought, invasive species, and animal health. Within this amount, the bill includes $350 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative for competitive agricultural research grants, $212 million to rehabilitate high-priority ARS facilities, and funding to maintain important investments in the nation’s land-grant colleges and universities.
$898 million for animal and plant health–This represents a $23 million increase above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level – for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). This funding will support programs to control or eradicate plant and animal pests and diseases that can cripple U.S. producers and entire agricultural industries. This also includes increases for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, and to fight citrus greening and highly pathogenic avian influenza.
$1 billion for food safety and inspection–This is for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. This amount is $1.6 million below the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $3.3 million above the President’s request. These mandatory inspection activities help ensure the safety and productivity of the country’s $186 billion meat and poultry industry, and keep safe food on American tables. This funding will maintain more than 8,000 frontline inspection personnel for meat, poultry, and egg products at more than 6,400 facilities across the country.
$2.72 billion for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)–This represents an increase of $132 million over the fiscal year 2015 enacted level and $14 million below the President’s budget request. Total funding for the FDA, including revenue from user fees, is $4.68 billion. Within this total, food safety activities are increased by $104.5 million, and various medical product safety activities – including additional funds for the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria initiative, orphan product development grants, foreign high-risk inspections, and precision medicine – are increased by over $24.3 million.
Additional programs and causes that the spending will cover include child nutrition programs, WIC, international food programs, emergency watershed protection and more. There is also a provision to repeal mandatory country of origin labeling for certain meat products. The current, flawed requirement is in violation of World Trade Organization trade standards, and would have resulted in trade retaliation by other nations if continued – negatively impacting the U.S. economy by more than $1 billion.
The House is scheduled to vote on the spending bill tomorrow–December 18, 2015. It will then go on to the Senate for a vote and finally to the desk of President Barack Obama.