Baking, grain groups fighting F.D.A. user fees

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON – The American Bakers Association, the Independent Bakers Association and the National Grain and Feed Association were among dozens of group urging the Obama administration not to seek user fees to fund implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

The Aug. 31 letter was sent to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan. The 64 organizations said food safety programs and inspections conducted by the Food and Drug Administration should be financed through appropriated funds.  The groups acknowledged that additional funding will be required to successfully implement the law.

“We believe that while F.D.A. requires additional funds in fiscal year 2017 in order to support food inspection activities and meet the upcoming implementation deadlines of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (F.S.M.A.), the administration should seek all such funding through the Congressional budget and appropriations process rather than asking for authorization of new regulatory taxes that Congress has repeatedly rejected,” the groups said.

In the letter, the groups said user fees would result in higher food prices for consumers, placing a particularly burden on low-income households.

“The creation of new food taxes or regulatory fees would mean higher costs for food makers and lead to higher retail food prices for the most vulnerable consumers,” the groups said. “As such, we believe imposing new regulatory taxes on food makers is the wrong option for funding food safety programs.”

The F.M.S.A. passed in 2010, granting the F.D.A. new regulatory powers and requiring it to undertake several new rulemakings that affect the operations of the food, animal feed and pet food industries.

 The agency’s budget request for every fiscal year since 2012 has recommended raising new revenue from food facility registration and inspection fees. The proposals have been rejected by Congress each time.

Congress has yet to pass a budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins Oct. 1. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a bill that would provide F.D.A. an additional $45 million in fiscal year 2016 to implement the new F.S.M.A rules, while a House bill would provide a $41.5 million increase. The administration requested an increase of $109 million, much of it through facility registration fees.

Other groups that signed the letter included the Corn Refiners Association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Pasta Association, the North American Meat Institute and the Snack Foods Association.
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