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Sequester could affect food safety

With Congress and the White House failing to reach any agreement to avoid sequestration, government agencies will have to find ways to cut a total of $85 billion dollars from their budgets.

Congress can still stop the automatic across-the-board cuts at any time if an agreement is reached on how to do so, but regardless of how the President and Congress resolve the current battle, it just marks round one of a decade’s worth of annual cuts totaling 1.2-trillion dollars mandated by the sequestration law. For now, Americans are left to wonder how the cuts will be made and how they’ll impact their daily lives. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg recently said the spending cuts will result in fewer safety inspections and an increased risk to consumers; FDA also said the so-called sequestration cuts will mean some 2100 fewer food safety inspections this year.

The reduced inspections and budget cuts could delay a new food safety law. FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael Taylor says the agency is trying to find ways to save money as they try to put the law in place, including experimenting with ways to do food safety inspections in shorter periods of time.

Meantime National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson says the economic recovery may well be damaged as elected officials in Washington refuse to work together. Johnson says it’s past time for Congress to realistically deal with its own dysfunction, to settle the nation’s fiscal issues and to begin providing the necessary policy certainty for our economy. Then, Johnson says, Congress must prioritize a five-year farm bill to do the same for agriculture. He notes that both Agriculture Committees have crafted farm bills that contribute to deficit reduction.