WASHINGTON – President Bush will propose record-level spending for USDA’s meat and poultry food safety programs and will increase efforts to strengthen agricultural protection systems in his Fiscal Year 2004 budget.

While the president did not mention agriculture in his State-of-the-Union address, Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman announced that those will be among the administration’s priorities in a speech in Atlanta.

USDA’s food safety budget will increase to $797 million, an increase of $42 million over the FY2003 request and represents a $148 million (or 20 percent) increase in food safety programs since FY2000. The FY 2004 request will fund 7,680 food safety inspectors, provide specialized training for the inspection workforce, increase microbiological testing and sampling, strengthen foreign surveillance programs and increase public education efforts.

In addition, USDA’s budget will also include $70 million in new funding through other USDA programs to strengthen agricultural protection systems, that would include increased laboratory security measures; bio-security, animal disease and vaccine research; and additional animal and plant pests and disease monitoring programs.

“The president cares deeply about ensuring a strong food safety system and the protection of agriculture against potential threats,” said Veneman. “This additional funding continues to build upon a strong record of achievement in further strengthening our protection systems to ensure the integrity of our food systems.”

Veneman outlined the following details that will be contained in USDA’s FY2004 budget for food safety and agricultural protection systems. More details will be provided on Feb. 3 when the administration releases is formal budget proposals:

  • $42 million increase to provide record-level funding for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). These additional resources will support FSIS food safety activities, including increasing its inspection workforce to 7,680 meat, poultry and egg products inspectors and veterinarians; providing specialized training for food safety authorities to ensure the safety of the commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products; increasing microbiological testing to ensure effective controls or elimination of pathogens in products; increasing foreign product surveillance; and new food safety public education efforts.
  • $23 million increase for Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) programs for inspections at certain ports of entry; increase the availability of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines; and an expansion of diagnostic and other scientific and technical services.
  • $47 million increase for USDA’s various research agencies for strengthening laboratory security measures; conducting additional research on emerging animal diseases; new vaccine development; new bio-security database systems; and continued development of the unified Federal-State Diagnostic Network for identifying and responding to high risk biological pathogens.

Secretary Veneman made the announcement during remarks at the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association International Poultry Exposition in Atlanta. The secretary toured exhibits highlighting new food safety research and technologies. She also conducted a roundtable discussion with local farmers to discuss food safety, homeland security and other farm-related issues.

“This budget proposal provides critical resources to strengthen food safety systems and USDA’s homeland security efforts,” said Veneman. “We must continue to invest in food safety, research and pest and disease protection programs to ensure strong systems are in place to protect consumers and the food and agricultural sector from potential threats.”

For more information on these programs and services, visit www.usda.gov. e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com