WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Obama administration yesterday released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2013, which once again proposes user fees for government mandated inspection programs for poultry processors.
The administration is proposing $266 million in user fees in its fiscal year 2013 federal budget, a more than 91 percent jump over the estimated 2012 amount of $139 million.
User fees specific to U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) are estimated to total $162 million for 2013 through existing user fees and trust fund activities for providing overtime, holiday and voluntary inspection services.
Since poultry inspection is a mandatory federal program which benefits public health, the National Chicken Council (NCC) has long contended that it should be funded by the federal government, not through user fees.
“These food safety taxes, which have been justly rejected by Congress time and time again, will be charged directly to the meat and poultry sector who will be forced to pass this additional cost onto tax-paying consumers,” said Tom Super, NCC vice president of communications. “NCC urges Congress to once again reject these fees that will put further strains on consumers’ food budgets and will create an additional burden on chicken companies at a time when the industry is attempting to recover from one of the worst financial years in history.”
Under the administration’s budget proposal for USDA, FSIS discretionary funding would receive a net decrease of more than $8 million, with a funding level of $996 million. The administration noted this budget would provide the full amount necessary to meet regulatory responsibilities, which reflects implementation of a modernized poultry inspection system in 2013.
Total budget authority for the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GIPSA) is requested at $90 million, of which $50 million is from existing grain inspection and weighing user fees. About $22 million of the discretionary appropriation request is for the Packers and Stockyards Program. Separately, GIPSA is once again requesting legislative authority to collect a licensing fee on entities regulated under the Packers and Stockyards Act. The 2013 Budget requests an increase of about $1.2 million to facilitate compliance with the Packers and Stockyards Act.
Other fiscal year 2013 USDA budget items proposed by the administration include:
- $200 million for the Market Access Program (MAP). The Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) is listed as “subject to reauthorization” in the proposed budget. (This is because mandatory programs of $50 million or less are not included in the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) fiscal year 13 budget baseline unless they are reauthorized.) NCC has long supported full funding for these programs that support the efforts of U.S. farmers, food producers, exporters, businesses and others to develop, maintain and expand U.S. agricultural export opportunities.
- $32.9 million, the same funding level as in 2012, for Market News to support the continuation of data collection and reporting of commodity information.
- $1.403 billion ($3 million more than 2012 estimates) for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers through contracts to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns and for opportunities to improve soil, water, plant, animal, air and related resources on agricultural land. Although funding for 2013 would be relatively steady compared to 2012, the president’s proposal, would cut EQIP funding $347 million over 10 years.
- $325 million for the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative, which is a $60 million increase from the 2012 level. This program, administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), is charged with funding research, education, and extension grants that address key problems of national, regional, and multi-state importance in sustaining all components of agriculture, including farm efficiency and profitability and food safety, among others.
- $1.043 billion ($59 million less than 2012 estimates) for all Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) programs. Included in that total is $50 million ($2 million less than 2012 estimates) for the Avian Health Program.
- $1.332 billion ($95 million more than 2012 estimates) for all Agricultural Marketing Service programs.
- A reduction in the maximum number of acres that can be enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to 30 million, down from 32 million acres as authorized.
“While NCC appreciates the administration’s efforts to manage budget cuts, we are concerned about the proposed long term cuts in the EQIP program; a program that has proven successful in helping chicken farmers implement nutrient management plans and other environmental improvement efforts,” Super said.
“And a decrease of two million acres in the CRP is far from enough considering the continued shortage of corn that has plagued chicken farmers who continue to struggle with feed availability, due in large part to federal ethanol policies,” Super continued. “NCC will urge Congress to reduce even further the maximum amount of good, productive cropland acres that can be enrolled in CRP, as long as that land is not environmentally sensitive.”
“We also look forward to working with the administration and Congress to achieve full funding for the MAP and FMD programs,” Super concluded.
A full copy of the USDA Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Summary and Annual Performance Plan can be accessed here.
The president’s submission of his budget proposal is the first step of the fiscal year 2013 budget process. Hearings on the proposal will likely be held in both the House and Senate over the coming weeks.