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NAMA News – April 19, 2013

April 19, 2013

NAMA, Stakeholders Urge Consistent Research Funding

NAMA, along with the National Association of Wheat Growers and researchers from all over the country, joined forces on Capitol Hill last week to spread the message of the need for consistent, long-term funding for wheat research.  They advocated developing new and better wheat varieties to meet future challenges of feeding a growing population. In spite of a bleak budgetary climate, the message seemed well received.

President’s Budget Contains Small Increases for Ag Research

Under the Administration’s 2014 budget proposal, agriculture research fared slightly better than other program areas. The Agriculture and Food Research Initiative got the biggest boost in the research budget, receiving a 40 percent increase over current funding levels for a proposed funding level of $388 million for FY 2014. The President’s spending plan zeroed out funds for the U.S. Wheat and Barley Scab Initiative saying that the money is proposed for “redirection.”  NAMA will work with the stakeholder community to restore this much-needed funding.

Administration Again Seeks User Fees to Fund FSMA

The Administration proposed in its 2014 budget request a 20 percent increase from 2012 levels for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), or $4.7 billion.  More than 90 percent of the boost would come from industry user fees.  The President’s 2014 budget for FDA includes a proposal to impose a food facility registration and inspection fee to fund agency activities “required by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).”   The agency projects it will collect $59 million in fiscal year 2014 from food and feed producers if Congress authorizes this new fee.

FDA’s budget proposals for 2012 and 2013 also recommended raising revenue from new facility registration fees to help fund the agency’s food safety activities. Congress rejected those proposals.  Congress also considered and rejected such food facility registration fees during its consideration of the FSMA, which was signed into law on January 4, 2011.

NAMA joined more than 50 food and agriculture groups in a letter to Senate appropriators opposing the fees and will ask House appropriators to oppose them as well.  To view this letter, follow the link: https://www.namamillers.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/fda-fee-letter-2014-SenAgAp-FINAL1.pdf.

If FDA requires addition funds to support FSMA implementation and food inspection activities, NAMA believes the agency should request such funding through the appropriations process, rather than seeking authorization of new regulatory taxes, which Congress has repeatedly rejected.

Administration’s Food Aid Proposal Creates Controversy

The Obama Administration finally unveiled its proposed budget for 2014, and the food aid provisions received a great deal of media and Congressional attention.  The Food for Peace Program, which uses several food products manufactured by NAMA members, would be terminated under the Administration’s Agriculture budget with the money transferred to the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) budget in Foreign Operations.  The IDA account would, in turn, use the funds for purchases of both US and foreign procured foods for food aid needs in the future.  Apparently due to the attention paid to this proposal by Congress, they proposed a 55% US origin minimum in the first year.  This was combined with attempts to earmark budget outlays to the PVO community and the US flag merchant marine to blunt those groups opposition to the initiative.

While the stakeholders in in-kind food aid have been active in meeting with important Congressional contacts, the Administration has been equally active trying to garner support in the appropriations and foreign affairs committees of the Senate and House.  This debate will continue in both the 2014 appropriations and Farm Bill discussions.  NAMA is active in a coalition of food and agriculture groups that continue to support in-kind food aid through Food For Peace and keeping Local and Regional Procurement, as well as cash transfers to needy recipients as foreign aid programs, not food aid.

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