While Washington looks for ways to trim federal government spending, President Barack Obama’s budget for fiscal 2014 would maintain or even increase spending on food safety. Clearly, the administration sees food safety as a priority from which the federal government cannot afford to withdraw resources. Providing food safety agencies adequate funding in recent years also has been a priority for Congress, but it was uncertain how food safety programs ultimately will fare given the concerns over the deficit.

The federal government’s two food safety agencies are the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Food Safety Inspection Service, which is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The F.S.I.S. provides federal inspection of meat, poultry and processed egg products establishments and support for similar state inspection programs. The F.D.A. regulates the rest of the food supply, domestically produced and imported.

In the president’s fiscal 2014 budget, user’s fees are the source of increased food safety funding. The president requested a budget of $4.7 billion, an increase of $821 million, or 21%, from fiscal year 2012. The president’s budget chose to use fiscal year 2012 as the base year in year-to-year funding comparisons because funding for fiscal year 2013 under the continuing resolution was subsequently affected by the sequester that occurred in March.

The F.D.A. said industry user fees would fund 94% of the proposed budget increase, including new fees to support the Food Safety Modernization Act (F.S.M.A.) and strengthen the F.D.A.’s ability to oversee imported food.

The F.D.A. said the remainder of the budget increases would support programs it said are necessary to preserve the safety of medical products and meet the agency’s expanding responsibilities. The F.D.A. said recognizing the need for fiscal constraint, its budget includes spending cuts in several areas, including a $15 million decrease in budget authority for human drug, biologics, and medical device programs.

“These are tight budget times, and the F.D.A. budget request reflects this reality,” said Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., commissioner of the F.D.A. “Our budget increases are targeted to strategic areas that will benefit patients and consumers and overall strengthen our economy.”

Inside the F.D.A.’s numbers

The F.D.A.’s Foods Program would be funded at $1,106,604,000 under the president’s budget, including $882,817,000 in budget authority (taxpayer monies appropriated by Congress) and $223,787,000 the administration proposes the F.D.A. collect as user fees, mostly associated with implementing the F.S.M.A.

The president’s budget for the Foods Program for fiscal 2014 compared with $880,357,000 as the estimate for the current year under the pre-sequester fiscal year 2013 continuing resolution and would be up $231,603,000, or 26%, from the fiscal year 2012 enacted program level funding at $875,001,000.

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition would be funded in fiscal 2014 at $320,324,000, up $62,372,000, or 24%, from the enacted level of $257,952,000 in fiscal 2012. The funding proposed for fiscal 2014 would comprise $266,408,000 in appropriations, up $8,920,000, or 3%, from an enacted $257,488,000 in fiscal 2012. The remainder of the center’s funding would comprise a portion of the user fees proposed to be collected under the budget plan. The total proposed funding for CFSAN would allow for a full-time equivalent staffing level at 994, up 112 from 882 in fiscal 2012.

F.D.A. field services, including inspections and related activities, would be funded at $786,280,000, up $169,231,000, or 27%, from an enacted level of $617,049,000 in fiscal 2012. Of the proposed funding for the F.D.A.‘s field activities for fiscal 2014, congressionally appropriated funds would account for $616,409,000, up $15,582,000, or 3%, from an enacted $600,827,000 in fiscal 2012, with the remainder to be derived from a portion of the proposed user fees. The program level (total) funding for the F.D.A.’s field activities would support a full-time equivalent staffing of 3,116, up 452 from 2,664 in fiscal
year 2012.

The budget proposes Food Program user fees at $223,787,000, up $207,101,000 from an enacted $16,686,000 in fiscal 2012.

The F.D.A. budget estimated the collection of $7,134,000 in user fees related to the cost of facility re-inspection under the F.S.M.A. in fiscal 2014, up $309,000 from an enacted $6,825,000 in fiscal 2012. The budget also estimated user fees related to product recalls would total $10,308,000, up $447,000 from $9,861,000 in fiscal 2012.

New user fees introduced

The F.D.A. budget indicated it would collect $49,657,000 in fiscal 2014 in connection with the food establishment registration and inspection user fee required under the F.S.M.A. The registration is a biennial process, hence the user fee will be collected every other year.

Two new food-related user fees were included in the F.D.A.’s budget proposal.

Collections from the new food contact notification user fee were budgeted at $4,548,000, which would provide for among, other things, seven full-time equivalent positions at CFSAN. The F.D.A. has statutory responsibility for the safety of all products that come into contact with food, such as packaging. The F.D.A. said the proposed user fee would support its activities such as premarket notification to ensure the safety of food contact substances.

“The fee will better position F.D.A. to fulfill its public health mission by mitigating microbial food contamination,” the agency said.

But the largest proposed new user fee would be collected from food importers.

“The administration will propose legislation to allow F.D.A. to collect fees for food imports, which will generate an estimated $166 million to support F.D.A.’s food safety efforts,” the agency said. “The fee will have exemptions for small importers and a maximum charge for large importers.”

Specifically, for fiscal year 2014, the F.D.A. proposed to collect $134,745,000 in food importer user fees. Of the total, $13,810,000 would be incorporated into the budget’s funding for CFSAN, and $120,935,000 would supplement appropriated funding for the F.D.A.’s field activities, primarily the inspection of imported foods.
The president’s budget also included $1,019 million in discretionary and mandatory funding for the U.S.D.A.’s food safety programs. This compared with pre-sequester funding at $1,021 million for fiscal 2013 and $1,016 million as enacted for fiscal 2012. Of the budget authority for food safety, $1,008 million would be discretionary spending, down $3 million from the pre-sequester estimate for fiscal 2013 and compared with $1,004 million as enacted for fiscal 2012. Mandatory spending would comprise $10 million from trust funds established for voluntary inspection services, unchanged from the pre-sequester estimate for fiscal 2013 and down $1 million from the enacted level in fiscal 2012.

Breaking down this aggregate, the president’s budget would provide $889 million in discretionary funding for the F.S.I.S. in fiscal 2014, down $5 million from the pre-sequester estimate for fiscal 2013 but up $3 million from the enacted $886 million in fiscal 2012.

Inspectors employed by the F.S.I.S. are located at approximately 6,260 slaughtering and processing plants and import houses and other federally regulated facilities. The F.S.I.S. recently streamlined resources by reducing the number of district offices to 10 from 15. There are about 8,700 federal in-plant and other frontline personnel.

“In 2014, F.S.I.S. estimates it will collect $163 million through existing user fee and trust fund activities (noted above) for providing overtime, holiday and voluntary inspection services,” the U.S.D.A. said. The $153 million expected in user fees in connection with overtime, holiday and voluntary inspections services was unchanged from the pre-sequester estimate for fiscal 2013 and was down $18 million from fiscal 2012.

Additionally, the U.S.D.A. indicated the F.S.I.S. will submit a legislative proposal for a user fee to be collected from plants for additional inspections and related activities made necessary due to a covered plant’s failure to be in compliance with regulations. Total annual collections from this proposal were estimated at about $4 million.