Despite deep spending cuts to most non-military programs contained in the Trump administration’s budget request for Fiscal 2019, food safety at FDA and USDA would remain largely unscathed and would even grow slightly in the new budget year that begins October 1. As in previous years, however, federal funding would be bolstered by industry user fees, including on food producers, importers, and exporters.
The administration’s proposed Fiscal 2019 budget for FDA, presented to Congress in early February, would give the agency a discretionary budget of $3.25 billion, an increase of 17 percent or $473 million over the current year’s continuing resolution funding.
The proposed budget allocates $1.4 billion for food safety programs across FDA, an increase of $10 million. A total of $16 million in user fees would be collected for food safety-related activities, such as the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program ($5 million), the third-party auditor program ($1 million), export certification ($5 million), food recall ($1 million), and food re-inspection ($6 million). These levels remain unchanged from the current year.
“The food safety portfolio at FDA will continue to support important food and feed safety activities that are critical to the public in FY 2019, such as implementing mandatory standards for imported food, rapidly detecting and responding to major foodborne illness outbreaks, and striving to provide consumers with material about healthy choices using the most up-to-date science,” the FDA budget document states. “FDA will also continue support for food safety research, cosmetics safety, partnerships with academic institutes, and international capacity building.”
Many policy analysts and consumer advocates were relieved that the proposed budget did not offer cuts to federal food safety programs. Thomas Gremillon, a board member of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA and director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, praised the small increase.
“The funding of food safety programs clearly needs a boost given the FDA’s multi-year responsibility for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act and the continuing challenges in this area,” Gremillion said. “The agency needs more resources to effectively implement the law.”
While USDA’s overall budget would be cut by 16 percent or $3.7 billion next year, inspection activities performed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be fully funded in Fiscal 2019. This includes support for about 8,100 personnel located at more than 6,400 domestic processing and slaughter establishments for meat, poultry, and egg products.
While these inspection activities are required by federal law, the budget proposes establishment of a new $660 million annual FSIS user fee. Starting in Fiscal 2020, fees would be assessed on the meat, poultry, and egg industries to cover the costs of all domestic inspections, import re-inspections, and most of the central operations costs for federal, state, and international inspection programs for these food products. The Trump administration estimates the new fee would increase the cost of meat, poultry, and eggs for consumers by less than one cent per pound.
But starting in Fiscal 2019, new user fees would be assessed to support the Animal and Plant Health inspection Service ($23 million), the Packers and Stockyards Program ($23 million), and the Agricultural Marketing Service ($20 million).
As the administration had previously announced, the budget notes that FDA and USDA will continue to streamline regulatory and inspection activities to reduce the number of businesses that are inspected by both agencies, such as a facility preparing soup that contains both meat and vegetables.
Finally, the budget declares that Codex Alimentarius activities will be “realigned” from FSIS to USDA’s Trade and Agricultural Affairs Office, a move that had been widely criticized when proposed by USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue last year. Perhaps because of this, FSIS will remain the chair of Codex, the budget adds.