President Bush did include the $73.5 billion in above-baseline spending for agriculture that he promised in his Fiscal Year 2003 budget proposal. But the administration blueprint did not provide any hints about how the president would like to see the money spent.

In a press briefing on the USDA portion of the administration's $2.13 trillion budget plan, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said that the FY2003 budget calls for $74.4 billion in USDA spending, an increase of $11 billion over the FY 2002 budget submitted by the president last year.

“The proposed budget reflects the Bush Administration's commitment to support an additional $73.5 billion over 10 years for farm programs,” said Veneman. “This is to meet our pledge of a generous farm bill based on sound policy.”

She said that the proposed USDA budget also supports the goals outlined in the Bush administration's policy book, Food and Agriculture Policy: Taking Stock for a New Century, released last summer.

“This budget funds the key priorities for USDA, supports the House and Senate budget resolutions for farm spending that were passed last year, strengthens homeland security and infrastructure protections — what we talk about as pests and animals and food safety and the research that supports those things,” she said.

“It supports trade expansion, providing tools for our producers to export. It provides record-level nutrition safety nets for families who need assistance. It promotes good conservation and environmental stewardship. It helps rural communities. And it expands initiatives to ensure that we make government work better.”

In her comments, Veneman noted that the House-passed farm bill stays within the $73.5 billion figure for additional spending contained in the House and Senate budget resolutions passed last spring while the bill pending in the Senate does not.

But she stopped short of endorsing quick passage of the House bill by the Senate to get a farm bill through conference and to the president for his signature.

“The House bill is a good bill, but there are elements in the Senate bill or in the Cochran-Roberts amendment, such as farm savings accounts, that we feel are beneficial, as well,” she said. “Whatever the Congress passes, we think, must be consistent with the administration objectives of increased trade.”

Rather than a breakdown for spending on commodity programs in FY 2003, the administration budget includes “plug-in” numbers of $4.2 billion for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and $7.27 billion for the new fiscal year.

“We have not pre-determined how that spending will ultimately come out because that's the Congress' responsibility,” she said. “But certainly those numbers will be adjusted to reflect what the Congress does in a farm bill.”

She repeated her comments that she made at a meeting with Farm Service Agency employees in Georgia that USDA is committed to implementing the new farm bill “as quickly as possible” once it is signed by the president.

“The administration is committed to getting a farm bill passed as quickly as possible and implemented as quickly as possible,” the secretary noted. “We believe that there will either be a new farm bill that impacts 2002 crops or a supplemental bill. One way or the other there will be additional spending for the 2002 year.”

Veneman also announced that the budget proposes a $146 million increase for programs to protect the nation's food supply from animal and plant pests and diseases, strengthen food safety programs and support specific research activities. In his State of the Union address, President Bush stressed the need for more homeland security protections.

“This budget builds on our efforts to protect agriculture and the food supply from intentional and unintentional risks,” Veneman said. “This increase, along with $328 million in supplemental funds provided in the 2002 Defense Appropriations Act, provides needed resources for more border inspectors at ports of entry, increased security at our laboratories and new research into emerging diseases that threaten crops, livestock and our food supply.”

In addition, “The 2003 budget reflects our commitment to a nutrition safety net by including a record $41 billion for domestic nutrition assistance programs, such as the Food Stamp, Child Nutrition and the Women, Infants and Children programs,” Veneman said. “The budget also allows for more than $2 billion in contingency funds to cover any unanticipated increases in domestic feeding program participation levels.”

Bush to seek $131 million increase for food safety

By Forrest Laws
Farm Press Editorial Staff

President Bush will propose spending an additional $131 million to protect the nation's food supply from animal and plant pests and diseases, strengthen food safety programs and support specific research activities in Fiscal Year 2003.

Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman announced the new funding proposal during a stop in San Angelo, Texas, on a four-state tour aimed at explaining the Bush administration's budget requests for the next fiscal year and the president's state of the union address.

Besides Texas, the secretary was scheduled to speak in Georgia, Michigan and Ohio. Veneman toured cattle and cotton operations in San Angelo with Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs and talked with farmers about the importance of homeland security.

“This new funding reinforces this administration's commitment to strengthening our protection systems to insure agriculture and our food supply is guarded against potential threats,” said Veneman.

“It is extremely critical that we remain vigilant and work together with our federal and state partners, as well as the food and agriculture industry, to insure the integrity of our food systems.”

The Secretary outlined the following areas in the FY2003 agriculture budget that relate to homeland security and the protection of agriculture:

$49 million increase for animal health monitoring to enhance the ability to quickly identify potential threats. These additional resources will be used to improve the emergency management system that coordinates and implements rapid response to an animal or plant pest or disease outbreak.

$19 million increase in the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection (AQI) program for improved point-of-entry inspection programs by providing additional inspectors, expanding canine teams and state of the art high definition x-ray machines at high-risk ports of entry. This additional increase in FY2003 will bring staffing at ports of entry to 3,974, a 55 percent increase in three years.

$11 million increase for programs to expand diagnostic, response, management and other technical services within the Animal Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS).

$28 million increase to provide record funding for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The increase will support FSIS food safety activities, including maintaining approximately 7,600 meat, poultry and egg products inspectors. This funding would include $14.5 million to improve the information technology infrastructure to improve risk management systems and $2.7 million for slaughter epidemiological surveys and risk prevention activities.

$24 million increase to support research aimed at protecting the nation's agriculture and food system from attack by animal and plant diseases, insects and other pests and to reduce the incidence of food-borne illness in humans due to pathogens and other threats to the food supply. These increases will emphasize development of improved detection, identification, diagnostic and vaccination methods to identify and control threats to animal and plant agriculture.

“This budget proposal will provide important resources to help strengthen our homeland security efforts,” said Veneman. “The protection of our food supply is critical. We must continue to invest in food safety, research and pest and disease programs to insure America's consumers and food and agriculture systems are strong.”

Earlier this month, President Bush signed the Defense Appropriations Act, which provided an additional $328 million in USDA funding for homeland security protections. This includes $105 million for APHIS pest and disease exclusion, detection and monitoring; $80 million for upgrading USDA facilities and operational security; $50 million for an animal bio-containment facility at the National Animal Disease Laboratory; $40 million for the Agricultural Research Service; $23 million for the Plum Island Animal Disease Center; $15 million for security upgrades and bioterrorism protection for the FSIS; and $14 million for increased security measures at the National Veterinary Services Laboratories in Ames, Iowa.

Beginning last year, USDA has worked to enhance many of these programs through annual budget requests and emergency appropriations. Secretary Veneman has repeatedly called for more long-term planning in infrastructure programs to insure American farmers and consumers are protected against threats such as foot-and-mouth disease, which ravaged the UK and parts of Europe this spring. In addition, Veneman has urged that further consideration of such critical programs be examined as part of the next farm bill.

Since Sept. 11, USDA has worked with the newly created Office of Homeland Security, other federal agencies, states and industry to examine immediate emergency needs and develop longer-term strategies to continue protecting America's food and agricultural systems.

For more information on USDA's homeland security efforts, please visit the USDA's website at: http://www.usda.gov.