The Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an extra $50m of funding for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2012 – the only non-security agency to receive increased funding under the appropriations bill.
The Committee approved a provision of $2.5bn of funding for the FDA in 2012, compared to $2.45bn in 2011 – while US Department of Agriculture funding, which includes funds for inspecting meat and poultry facilities, remained flat. The bill also includes funding cuts for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program, farm loan programs, and research programs.
The Senate Committee’s decision to increase FDA funding is in opposition to the House committee’s stance. In May, House Republicans voted to slash FDA funding by $285m in 2012, to a level 11.5 percent lower than 2011.
The agency is seeking additional funds to pay for new food safety legislation.
The FDA has estimated the cost of implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in January, at $1.4bn over five years, but funding for the bill has been an area of particular controversy.
The FDA has said that it needs extra funding primarily to pay for greater authorities granted to the agency by the new food safety legislation, including the ability to order product recalls, and more frequent inspections of food facilities. Meanwhile some lawmakers have questioned whether the new law requires funding at all, suggesting that cutting waste and avoiding duplication would free up funds for essential FDA operations.
Speaking at the committee meeting on Wednesday, committee chair Daniel Inouye said: “In total, the allocation is $6.8 billion below the level approved for fiscal year 2011 and $79.2 billion below the President's request. Together with the funding reductions approved for fiscal year 2011, the Congress has cut the Administration's request for these two years by more than $157 billion. This makes our funding recommendations the largest reduction by Congress of any President's requests in history over this two year period.”
US spending bills have been tightened by concerns over the level of national debt. A congressional supercommittee created in August must come up with recommendations for how to save $1.5trn over ten years by November 23.