The Senate Appropriations Committee July 16 passed (28-2) the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies appropriations bill.
The bill provides $2.629 billion in discretionary funding for the FDA, a $40 million increase over the FY 2015 enacted level. Within the allocation, the Committee provides a $45 million increase for food safety activities and a $5 million increase for medical product safety activities. The Senate bill also includes a one-year delay for FDA implementation of a new menu labeling regulation.
Some of the increases still do not meet the president’s request, including a $45 million increase to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which is $60 million short of the budget request; a $3 million increase to combat antibiotic resistance, which is $12 million less than the budget request; and a $2 million increase for FDA’s Precision Medicine Initiative, which falls $8 million below the budget request level.
At the full committee markup, Subcommittee Ranking Member Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) offered an amendment, ultimately blocked by Republican colleagues, that would increase the Senate bill by $60 million to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization Act, $12 million to combat antibiotic resistance and $8 million for FDA’s Precision Medicine Initiative, as well as increases for implementation of the FDA Safety and Innovation Act, oversight of compounding pharmacies and approval of additional sunscreen products.
Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) expressed her dissatisfaction stating the Republican budget leaves vital Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) programs without necessary resources. Calling the FDA “the gold standard for drug, medical device and food safety…” she urged Congress to consider giving the FDA “the resources it needs to implement major portions of the Food Safety Modernization law.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) praised the committee’s approval stating the bill “includes many important programs that directly influence U.S. agriculture, public health and the quality of life in rural America. The bill adheres to our budget constraints, yet funds federal initiatives to improve agriculture production and research and to support rural economies.”
Urging her colleagues to reach a budget agreement Mikulski added, “I repeat my call for a new budget deal to raise the caps equally for defense and non-defense. Our side is ready to come to the table. We cannot wait for a manufactured crisis to act.” The current authorization for the programs expire Sept. 30, 2015.
The vote comes a week after the House Appropriations Committee July 8 approved by voice vote their FY 2016 agriculture appropriations bill, including $20.65 billion in discretionary funding, $175 million lower (1 percent) than the FY 2015 enacted level and $1.1 billion below the president’s budget request. Including both discretionary and mandatory funding for various nutrition programs, the overall bill totals $143.9 billion. The bill increases FDA funding by $30 million over FY 2015 levels, totaling $2.6 billion in discretionary funding.