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Spending increase posed for food safety, bioterrorism

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 ensure 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 ensure 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 ensure 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 ensure 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.

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