USDA budget increased for protection against disease

WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman provided details of the Bush Administration’s FY 2002 agriculture budget, which included responsible increases for plant pests and animal disease programs, food safety, trade programs, and other important activities.

Veneman has authorized an additional $32 million in FY 2001/2002 to increase inspection personnel to protect against animal and plant diseases like foot-and-mouth at major U.S. ports of entry.

“This budget funds key priorities within this department,” said Veneman. “It helps protect our borders against plant pests and animal diseases, provides full funding for food safety programs, and funds important programs to increase trade activity for U.S. agriculture.”

Beefing up protection.

The FY 2002 budget provides $849 million in program funding for USDA’s Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service, up $174 million over 2001. The budget also strengthens the Agriculture Quarantine Inspection Program, which helps protect the U.S. against animal diseases like foot-and-mouth and BSE, by requesting $13 million in additional program support.

To continue strengthening these programs, Veneman authorized an additional $32 million to hire approximately 350 additional personnel at critical ports and international airports to protect against pests and diseases. This authorization of personnel includes 127 permanent officers and technicians, 27 canine officers, 173 temporary inspector positions and 20 veterinarians. These positions are over and above the levels indicated in the FY 2001 and FY 2002 budgets and will be financed from available revenues in the APHIS user fee account.

This decision provides an additional $13.5 million in resources for FY 2001 and $18.6 million for FY 2002 for staffing.

Port patrol.

“Given current situations around the world, we need to continue reviewing program needs and take every possible action to strengthen our pest and disease prevention systems,” said Veneman. “Increasing personnel at critical ports of entry is an important step that supports additional actions we have already taken to continue protecting U.S. agriculture.”

In response to the recent foot-and-mouth outbreak, the USDA has increased measures to protect American agriculture. This includes prohibiting shipments of products from high-risk countries; increasing personnel and surveillance at ports of entry; tightening regulatory enforcement; strengthening federal, state and industry coordination; implementing education campaigns; and dispatching experts to Great Britain to assist containment efforts.

Additional USDA budget priorities include the following:

* Fully funds the Food Safety Inspection Service at $716 million, an increase of $21 million over FY 2001. The budget includes an increase for pay and benefits to support the FSIS workforce, including 7,600 meat and poultry inspectors.

* Carries out the president’s commitment to expand overseas markets for American agricultural products by providing $126 million in funding for the Foreign Agricultural Service, a $6.4 million increase over FY 2001. This additional funding will help bolster USDA capability to address technical trade issues and to strengthen market intelligence capabilities for overseas posts.

Funding for USDA’s Export Guarantee Programs are estimated at $3.9 billion, an increase of more than $100 million over FY 2001. The Foreign Market Development Program, the Market Access Program, Quality Samples Program and Export Enhancement Program will remain at 2001 levels, totaling $598 million. Funding for the Dairy Export Incentive Program is estimated at $42 million, slightly above the current 2001 estimate.

* Implements the new Agricultural Risk Protection Act so farmers have the benefits of improved crop insurance as soon as possible. This requires $141 million above FY 2001.

* Maintains average monthly participation in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children at 7.25 million individuals. The Food Stamp Program is budgeted at $21 billion, a $1.4 billion increase over 2001, excluding a $1 billion reserve fund. Child Nutrition Programs are budgeted at $10.8 billion, approximately $600 million above 2001 estimates.

* Provides $2.1 billion for the Research, Education and Economics, representing an increase of $25 million, when you exclude earmarks and other one-time funding.

* Provides $969 million for the Agricultural Research Service, redirecting a portion of ongoing research into important new areas and includes $12 million for additional work to prevent and control exotic diseases and pests, with special emphasis ($5 million) on BSE or “mad cow disease” and $7.5 million to support work on biotechnology.

* Excluding emergency funding provided in 2001, Forest Service activities will be funded at $4.6 billion, an increase of $600 million. The budget maintains funding for priority activities in the Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management Plan, including hazardous fuels reduction.

* Provides $927 million for ongoing Natural Resources Conservation Service activities, an increase of $57 million, to assure adequate technical assistance is provided to farmers, particularly for the Conservation Reserve Program.

* Supports a total program of $12.4 billion for rural development programs, including funding to support about 56,000 homeownership opportunities for low and moderate income residents and funding to provide clean, safe drinking water to 1.4 million rural residents. In addition, a new program of loans and grants is proposed to finance broadband transmission capability to provide Internet and other high speed communications access in rural areas.

* Provides an additional $120 million in funding for the Farm Service Agency to ensure adequate staffing to assist with heavy workloads associated with the implementation of emergency farm programs throughout the country.

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