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Super committee failure puts food safety and Farm Bill funding at risk

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Nov-2011

The congressional super committee charged with developing a strategy for deficit reduction has failed to reach an agreement, threatening FDA funding to implement food safety laws, and funding for the 2012 Farm Bill after next year.

The co-chairs of the bipartisan Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction released a statement on Monday, in which they said they were “deeply disappointed” at their failure to reach an agreement, citing “significant differences”.

"After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” they wrote.

The super committee’s failure to find ways to reduce the deficit by $1.5trn over 10 years means that sequestration – automatic cuts – will go into effect in 2013, to reduce spending by $1.2trn over 10 years. President Obama said in a White House briefing that he would veto any attempt to undo the automatic spending cuts.

Most domestic agencies would see an approximate 7.8% reduction in funding in 2013, unless Congress can work out an alternative deficit reduction plan.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) wrote to the super committee last month, warning of the specific consequences for the FDA if it failed to reach a decision.

“The safety of our food would be put at risk," Dicks wrote. "Sequestration would reduce funding by nearly $200 million below the 2011 level. This would lead to fewer FDA staff, including those who inspect our domestic and imported foods… In addition, FDA would be unable to implement recent legislation to improve the food safety system."

Meanwhile, Senate and House Agriculture Committee leaders have vowed to find a way to reauthorize the Farm Bill.

They said in a statement: “We are pleased we were able to work in a bipartisan way with committee members and agriculture stakeholders to generate sound ideas to cut spending by tens of billions of dollars while maintaining key priorities to grow the country’s agriculture economy. We will continue the process of reauthorizing the farm bill in the coming months, and will do so with the same bipartisan spirit that has historically defined the work of our committees."

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