FDA Commissioner States Intention to Work with State Partners
Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Related Agencies held a hearing on the FDA’s proposed 2016 budget request. Much of the requested funding will go toward funding of new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws soon to be finalized by the FDA.
Testifying before the Subcommittee was outgoing FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg who noted the FDA is asking for $4.9 billion in budget authority, with $2.2 billion of that coming from user fees, and $1.5 billion specifically requested for food safety initiatives.
She explained that the FDA has made progress in implementing the new FSMA rules and suggested that if Congress invests now, goals outlined in this new law can be achieved. The LGMA was extremely pleased to hear that Commissioner Hamburg wants the agency to actively engage with state partners, which she also stated in her testimony before the Subcommittee. The LGMA has been working closely with FDA to demonstrate how our state’s program can assist the agency in fulfilling its mandates with respect to FSMA. After all, the LGMA program offers a comprehensive food safety program with mandatory government audits of leafy greens farms to ensure a set of science-based food safety practices are being followed. This is very much aligned with what the agency is hoping to accomplish through FSMA.
The Commissioner recognized the LGMA’s efforts when she answered a question from Congressman David Valadao (CA21) about how farmers and ranchers feel about FSMA. To paraphrase, Hamburg responded by saying many FDA workers have spent time on farms, including in California with leafy green producers in particular, and have learned about best practices to build on and the realities of implementing FSMA rules. She noted these businesses have been enormously helpful in identifying areas where there are opportunities to reduce risk.
LGMA is a supporter of FSMA and understands, as Hamburg explained to the Subcommittee, that if necessary budget requests are not fulfilled by Congress, many of the critical components of FSMA will not be funded.
There is no certainty the requested funding will come through. But, fortunately for consumers, California and Arizona leafy greens will continue to be produced under a food safety program that mirrors FSMA no matter what the outcome of current budget talks. All costs associated with the LGMA programs are paid for by the leafy greens community without any need for additional user fees or taxpayer dollars.
Safe food is important. The California leafy greens handlers who are members of the LGMA recognized long ago the need for a formalized program and they are committed to it. This is why the LGMA is working so closely with FDA to be recognized as a resource for ensuring leafy greens are in compliance with new laws that protect consumers.