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House Seeks Ag, FDA Science Cuts

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Federal spending for agricultural research, food safety efforts, and medical device testing and regulation would be cut under a budget plan currently being considered in the House of Representatives as part of an effort to reduce the US budget deficit.

The $125.5 billion Agriculture Appropriations bill for 2012, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee last night, would cut the budget of the Food and Drug Administration by $285 million to $2.17 billion (excluding fees), would lower money for the Agricultural Research Service by $139 million, and would cut funding for the Food Safety and Inspection Service by $37 million.

The Food and Drug Administration's total budget under the proposal would be $3.7 billion, with user fees making up the difference. Among those users fees are an estimated $856 million expected to come from prescription drug user fees and $67.1 million expected to come from medical device user fees.

FDA would receive around $1 billion for activities at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, $321 million for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, and $51.4 million for the National Center for Toxicological Research.

At the US Department of Agriculture, the plan would provide $993.3 million to the Agricultural Research Service and $600.8 million for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The appropriation would provide $790 million for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and $972 million for the Food Safety and Inspection Service.

"As is the goal of all our Appropriations bills this year, this legislation reflects hard decisions to cut lower priority programs, reduce spending in programs that can be scaled back, and target funds where they are needed most so that our nation continues on the path to fiscal recovery," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R – Ken.) said in a statement.

Overall, agricultural research funding under this bill would be reduced by $354 million.

"While trimming spending, this funding level will continue to support important high-priority research on devastating crop diseases, emerging chemical and biological threats, food safety, and water quality," Rogers' office said in the statement.

The $790 million in total funding for animal and plant health represents a cut of $73 million less than last year's level, but it allows for access to emergency funding in the case of unexpected agricultural threats, according to Rogers' office.

House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Rep. Norm Dicks (D – Wash.) said in a statement that the cuts to FDA and food safety "is a perfect example of Republicans' commitment to short-sighted budgeting."

"In light of several nationwide recalls, Democrats in Congress passed a food-safety bill that ramped up activities at the FDA. This bill actually moves us backward in protecting our food supply and medical products," Dicks said.

The committee also last night passed an amendment to the bill that would prohibit the funding to be used by FDA on rule-making activities or guidance that are not based on "hard science."

Proposed by Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R – Mont.), the amendment would keep FDA from using funding to develop or propose rules, regulations, or guidances that can restrict the uses of substances or compounds unless they are based on hard science, including proving that the compound or substance is more harmful to consumers than a product that does not contain such a compound, or has been demonstrated by scientific study to have none of its purported benefits.

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