President Barack Obama in his fiscal year 2017 budget requested $1,195,067,000 for the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety programs and activities. The budget request was $196,153,000, or 20%, higher, than the F.Y. 2016 enacted level of $998,914,000. But the notable increase from F.Y. 2016 was based on a spike in proposed user fees, which Congress heretofore has been loath to consider, let alone approve.
The president’s budget proposed the collection of $182,464,000 in user fees for the F.D.A.’s food programs in F.Y. 2017 compared with $11,586,000 in user fees Congress approved for F.Y. 2016. Before F.Y. 2016, there were no user fees authorized to be collected in connection with the F.D.A.’s food safety programs.
When current and proposed user fees are set aside, the increased funding sought for the F.D.A. in F.Y. 2017 was small considering rapidly expanding demands placed on the F.D.A. in connection with implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. The president sought $1,012,603,000 in budget authority (congressional appropriations) for F.Y. 2017, an amount that was only $25,275,000, or 3%, higher than $987,328,000 enacted for F.Y. 2016. In contrast, F.Y. 2016 budget authority for F.D.A.’s food safety activities increased 9% from the prior year.
The president’s budget noted F.D.A. issued five final F.S.M.A. rules in the fall of 2015 and plans to issue additional rules in the spring of 2016. It further noted the F.D.A. received a significant funding increase for F.S.M.A. implementation in F.Y. 2016 in anticipation of implementing the final rules.
“This funding is enabling F.D.A. to maintain momentum toward successful implementation of F.S.M.A. but leaves a significant gap in funding in two key areas: state funding for produce safety and ensuring the safety of imported food,” the F.D.A. said.
The $25.3 million in increased budget authority aimed to fill that gap with $11.3 million of the increase earmarked for implementing the recently issued rule on produce safety and $14 million to enable the F.D.A. to begin implementing the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (F.S.V.P.).
But the F.D.A. indicated it would require more resources to ensure the safety of imported food than was requested for implementing the F.S.V.P. To that end, it requested authority to collect an additional $96.1 million in importer user fees.
“Revenue from the proposed Food Import Fee would enable F.D.A. to modernize its import oversight program in ways that would facilitate the entry of safe food,” the F.D.A. said.
The F.D.A. also sought approval to collect $51.6 million in proposed food facility registration and inspection fees and $4.7 million in user fees in connection with its Food Contact Notification Program.
The Alliance to Strengthen the F.D.A. indicated it was “alarmed and disappointed” by the president’s budget request for the F.D.A. for F.Y. 2017.
“The budget proposal contains minimal appropriated investment in F.D.A.,” the alliance said. “We caution that the president’s budget documents use higher numbers, but they contain
several unauthorized funding proposals, such as new food user fees that Congress has repeatedly rejected.
“While there is recognition of resource needs at the F.D.A. in the president’s budget documents, the administration unfairly places the burden on congressional appropriators by not providing a realistic appropriations proposal. Congressional appropriators have made thoughtful investments in the F.D.A. over recent years, but the administration’s proposal sends them a confusing signal as to what are the agency’s real resource needs.”
Barbara P. Glenn, president of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), said, “The $25.3 million increase for F.D.A.’s food safety activities included in the president’s F.Y. 2017 budget request moves in the right direction but falls far short of the next investment needed in our new preventive approach to food safety for public health. The $104.5 million appropriated by Congress in December was a great down payment on the programs needed to implement the F.S.M.A. States need a similar increased investment for F.Y. 2017. When NASDA looks at the programs needed to administer human food, animal food and produce safety programs at the state level, states will need about $100 million in F.Y. 2017 to meet the goals of F.S.M.A.”
Dr. Glenn said NASDA also was disappointed by the inclusion of user fees in the budget request.
“User fees have never been supported by NASDA, Congress or other industry stakeholders,” Dr. Glenn said. “The continued request for user fees by
the administration undermines F.D.A.’s efforts to effectively implement F.S.M.A. in a timely manner. Without sufficient support of F.S.M.A. from the president and Congress, we are setting our producers up for failure.”
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, an outspoken advocate for increased federal investment in food safety, said, “This year’s budget allocates an additional $25 million for implementing the F.S.M.A., but full implementation would cost ten times as much. With the F.D.A. taking F.S.M.A. from regulation to implementation, and the ever increasing cases of Salmonella, norovirus and other food-borne illnesses affecting American consumers each year, it is absolutely vital that we fully fund these necessary food safety programs. Americans deserve to know that the food they eat is safe, and we must ensure that our food safety agencies and inspectors have the resources they need.”