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Proposed cuts to FDA, USDA by GOP could suspend encactment of food safety rules

In an effort to cut $58 billion from the federal budget for the second half of Fiscal Year 2011, House Republicans released a budget proposal late last week, one provision of which would mean steep cuts for food safety programs at both the FDA and USDA. Critics argue the reductions could cause a major hold-up on recently enacted food safety laws. #

According to the Republican plan, 14 percent, or $3.2 billion, would be chopped from the budgets of the USDA and FDA. #

In January, Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts, and Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, wrote an op-ed piece for The Hill on the need for more FDA funding to ensure food safety. In the piece, the two called the recently enacted Food Safety Modernization Act a landmark for the food safety industry: #

The legislation marks the most sweeping reform of food safety oversight in more than 70 years. Although it will greatly improve our ability to detect and respond to outbreaks of foodborne illness, the new law is historic because Congress has made the prevention of food contamination the central focus of the nation’s food safety strategies. The days when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will do little more than respond to outbreaks are over. #

Cuts to the FDA will undoubtedly mean more of a struggle in enacting the Food Safety Modernization Act. #

In an interview with Southeast AgNET, American Farm Bureau Budget Specialist Pat Wolff argued that the proposal will do little in the way of saving money: “Agriculture’s a small part of the federal budget, so you could take huge cuts out of agriculture and still not have that big of an impact on the bottom line.” #

Though obviously concerned about the potential budget losses, Wolff said the cuts are not a sure thing: “We have to remember that there are two bodies to the United States Congress. The House is moving very fast and very aggressively to reduce spending. The Senate’s taking a little slower, more perspective approach to it. So … just because one body says ‘it’ll be’ doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how it’ll turn out.” #

Those dissatisfied with the cuts won’t be going down without a fight. The Alliance for a Stronger FDA, a nonprofit group, has three full days of meetings lined up this week in D.C. According to its website, the group plans to meet with members of the Agriculture Appropriations subcommittees, to “raise concern over potential cuts to FDA’s budget.” #

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