Industries Oppose User Fees
April 4, 2014
 

On March 4, the administration released its Fiscal Year 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) budget proposal. As in previous years, the budget submission requests new "user fees" for government mandated food safety inspection programs for meat, poultry and egg products. The American Sheep Industry Association joined nearly 50 of other agriculture groups to urge Congress to oppose proposals to assess new user fees to fund federally mandated inspections.

The proposal by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) would be a new user fee, which will be charged to plants that have "sample failures" or require additional inspection activities due to "regulatory non-compliance."

The mission of FSIS is to ensure that the nation's commercial supply of meat, poultry and egg products is safe, wholesome and correctly labeled and packaged. The activities being identified to generate these new fees are at the core of the FSIS mission. In practice, granting FSIS the authority to collect user fees "due to regulatory non-compliance" would enable the agency to be compensated by industry for significant portions of its daily regulatory oversight activities within plants, within the agency's district office supervisory structure and in its D.C. headquarters staff. Furthermore, this proposal to have industry fund significant parts of FSIS's inspection activities will provide less accountability for the government to manage program costs, results and efficiencies.

Meat, poultry and egg product inspection is a public health and safety program required by federal law and has been funded through tax dollars for over a century. Food safety inspection benefits everyone and, therefore, should continue to be paid for through congressionally appropriated funds, with which previous Congresses have agreed.