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Death by a thousand cuts, by Phyllis Entis , May 31, 2017

Budget blade emerges as Trump's weapon of mass destruction of choice against food safety

Editor’s note: This opinion piece by Phyllis Entis was originally published on and is reposted here with permission.

Donald Trump has declared war. Not on North Korea; not on ISIS or Iran. Certainly not on Russia.

Donald Trump has declared war on the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Trump has not asked Congress to repeal the act or to void its regulations. He knows that would not happen. Instead, he has launched a stealth attack via the budgetary process. An attack on the underpinnings of the country’s food safety enforcement system.

Last week, the Trump White House submitted its budget proposal to Congress. Buried within a single line of the more than one thousand-page budget was the following information:

Foods Program

•2016 Actual spending: $1,002,000,000
•2017 Estimated spending: $985,000,000
•2018 Proposed spending: $910,000,000
That’s correct. Spending on food safety activities under Trump is already on the decline and, if he has his way, will continue to decrease year by year until the Food Safety Modernization Act is nothing but an empty shell. Emasculated due to lack of funding.

How does this compare with the previous administration’s funding? Since the 2011 enactment of the Food Safety Modernization Act, funding for the Foods Program has increased year over year, at least in line with inflation, except for 2013 during the infamous budget sequester – a 10 percent, across-the-board cut to all discretionary spending programs.

Actual spending on Foods Program
Inflation-adjusted value of 2011 spending shown in parentheses for comparison.

•2011: $836,244,000
•2012: $866,920,000 ($853,550,000)
•2013: $796,638,000 ($866,052,000)
•2014: $882,814,000 ($880,101,000)
•2015: $903,340,000 ($881,146,000)
•2016: $1,002,000,000 ($892,262,000)
•2017 estimated: $985,000,000 ($909,054,000)
We were already nearly four months into the fiscal year by the time Trump’s occupation of the Oval Office began, mitigating his impact on the Foods Program spending for 2017. However, his budget proposal for 2018 will reduce spending on the FDA’s Foods Program to less than the actual dollars spent in 2011, when adjusted for inflation.

The Animal Drugs and Feed Program, which encompasses approval of veterinary drugs and enforcement of pet food safety, fares even worse.

Animal Drugs and Feed Program

•2016 Actual spending: $159,000,000
•2017 Estimated spending: $158,000,000
•2018 Proposed spending: $108,000,000
The Animal Drugs and Feed Program has been the runt of the FDA litter for many years, its year-over-year funding failing to keep up with inflation more often than not. Yet, in an age when pet food safety is more important to more people than ever before, Trump has proposed to cut the budget for this program by 32 percent in real dollars and by 38 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars, based on 2011 dollars.

Spending on the Animal Drugs and Feed Program has not been this feeble since 2008.

Actual spending on Animal Drugs and Feed Program
Inflation-adjusted value of 2011 spending shown in parantheses for comparison.

•2011: $158,771,000
•2012: $156,909,000 ($162,057,000)
•2013: $147,774,000 ($164,430,000)
•2014: $164,313,000 ($167,098,000)
•2015: $175,024,000 ($167,296,000)
•2016: $159,000,000 ($169,407,000)
•2017 estimated: $158,000,000 ($172,595,000)
Other federal departments and agencies are not immune to the disease of deregulation by financial starvation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, and others too numerous to list here also are affected. Trump’s war on government regulation is unrestricted. And he is using the budget process as his primary weapon.

It is not a coincidence that I revived when Trump took office. In the absence of robust and well-funded FDA enforcement programs, it is up to each one of us to provide the necessary vigilance. To recognize and report food safety issues. And to raise our voices in support of the regulatory and enforcement activities that are the essential underpinning of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Remember Peanut Corporation of America. Remember DeCoster Egg Farms. Remember the illnesses and deaths that resulted from the cavalier attitudes of the principals in both companies. Lack of enforcement breeds lack of compliance.

Trump has declared war on clean water, clean air and food safety. It is time to fight back.