Bush zeros in on BSE in ag budget


WASHINGTON – Reflecting heightened bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) concern, President George W. Bush proposed increasing BSE-related funding by 377 percent next year.

The bulk of the $60 million proposed for BSE-related activities in the FY 2005 agriculture budget would go toward a national animal identification system.

The remaining money would fund improved testing technology, monitoring and surveillance, and quick response to BSE-related complaints.

It would also allow the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to collect 40,000 samples and tests for BSE at rendering plants and on farms. This would double the past rate.

Research center. This funding is in addition to the $178 million already proposed to complete the renovation of USDA’s new National Centers for Animal Health in Ames, Iowa.

This large animal research and diagnostic complex includes the National Veterinary Service Laboratory, which conducted the initial tests to confirm the case of BSE in Washington.

Emergency funds. The Bush administration is also considering a proposal to transfer emergency funds from the Commodity Credit Corporation to help finance these activities in 2004.

This includes the national animal identification program’s implementation.

USDA transferred $10.5 million from Commodity Credit Corporation last fall to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The money will double this year’s BSE testing from 20,000 cows to 40,000.

Up 5 percent. Bush’s proposed agriculture budget calls for $82 billion – about 5 percent more than was allocated this year – to cover the costs of food safety, conservation, BSE and food assistance programs.

The budget seeks record-level support for food safety programs, according to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.

The $381 million appropriated for the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative is a $302 million increase from the 2004 budget.

These funds will increase biohazard response, additional inspection and surveillance, and training in biosecurity. The largest item under this initiative is the Ames, Iowa, facility.

In addition, funding for the Food Safety and Inspection Service would increase to $952 million.

This represents a 22 percent increase in food safety programs since FY 2001.

A portion of this funding would support 7,690 food safety inspectors and specialized training for the inspection workforce.

Farm bill funding. “We are in the process of implementing the largest and most far-reaching farm bill conservation title ever,” Veneman said Feb. 2 in a news conference.

Veneman called the total program funding of $3.9 billion an “unprecedented investment in conservation.”

Expanded programs include:

* $2 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program.

* $1 billion for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

* $295 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program to enroll an additional 200,000 acres.

* $125 million for the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program.

* $421 million for the Grassland Reserve Program and other conservation programs.

Nutrition, forests, markets. The bulk of the overall budget, a record $47.9 billion, goes toward public food assistance programs, including food stamps and school lunches.

Citing the BSE situation as an example of the close ties between agriculture and markets, Bush earmarked $6.6 billion for export promotion and developing foreign markets.

Another $5.2 billion is allocated for USDA Forest Service programs, in response to the increasing risk of wildfires.

In addition. Also included in the budget are:

* $11.6 billion for rural development programs, including single-family housing loans, new homeownership opportunities, water and waste disposal, and rural communications.

* $137 million for better computer systems and technology in county office service centers.

* $22 million for the USDA’s Office of Civil Rights to track and process complaints.

BSE Updates

* The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service pinpointed another cow that crossed the border with the BSE-infected cow. Twenty-nine of the 81 animals are now located.

The latest cow was found Jan. 29 at a facility in Mabton, Wash. The state placed this farm, which is separate from the index facility, on hold.

* As of Feb. 3, 704 animals have been slaughtered. Although testing is not complete, all samples received have been negative for BSE.

* According to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman, trade talks with Japan will continue in the coming days.

Key buyers, including Japan, Mexico and South Korea, closed their markets to U.S. beef immediately after Dec. 23.


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