Budget proposal revives user fee push

03/06/2014 01:39:00 PM
Tom Karst

The White House fiscal year 2015 budget has both good and bad for the produce industry, Washington D.C. observers say.

On one hand, the budget from President Barack Obama aims to increase user fees for the Food and Drug Administration’s food safety oversight activities. On the other, the budget seeks funding increases for school nutrition, research and healthy eating initiatives.

In the $3.9 trillion budget, the White House revealed plans to support legislation to allow the FDA to collect fees for food imports, food facility registration, and inspections to implement the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

“The additional resources, estimated at $169 million for the food import program, would support FDA’s food safety efforts to modernize the import system,” according to the budget document for Health and Human Services.

Fees collected for the food facility registration and inspection program — estimated at $60 million — would help the FDA target new and improved activities related to risk analysis required by the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The fiscal year 2015 budget proposal calling for increased food safety user fees is not the first time the idea has been floated, said Robert Guenther, senior vice president for public policy for the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C..

“We’ve been strongly against that user fee endeavor and we continue to be that way,” Guenther said. “We will talk to Congress to make sure our voice is heard on why we don’t like user fees,” he said. “Food safety is a product of national interest and therefore should be paid for by general funds in the treasury,” he said.

Guenther said United Fresh would like more federal funds devoted for manpower and infrastructure resources at U.S. ports of entry.

“We are seeing more and more delays in terms of both imports and exports moving through the system,” he said.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said March 4 that the fiscal year budget for the USDA makes targeted investments in local and regional food systems, specialty crops and organic production.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s budget also provides $35 million in school equipment grants to help schools serve healthy meals and buy equipment such as salad bars or coolers.

The $35 million funding level for school cafeteria equipment would be the same as was approved for fiscal year 2014, said Lorelei DiSogra, vice president of nutrition and health for the United Fresh Produce Association.


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