President’s Budget Short-Changes Consumers and the Environment
Statement of Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Washington, D.C.—“The Obama administration’s proposed budget for 2012 falls far short of what is needed to safeguard our vital food and water resources. The federal funds necessary to ensure that Americans have clean drinking water and safe food have been slashed in an effort to appease Tea Party activists. The budget fails to provide basic services that most Americans would expect from their government.”
Inadequate Funding for Food Safety and Inspection
“The administration’s proposed budget allocates $1.02 billion for Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), a decrease of $9 million from this year’s budget. The volume of poultry and meat slaughtered is expected to increase by over 250 million pounds each, although the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has no plans to supplement this added burden with additional inspectors. This means that the speed of slaughter lines will increase, as will pressure on FSIS inspectors from the additional 135 million pounds of meat the government plans to export in 2012.
“The proposed budget also reduces funding for catfish inspection, a new program that USDA is now 14 months overdue in implementing. This proposal makes it clear that the agency is not taking seriously its mandate from the 2008 Farm Bill to create an inspection program to cover imported and domestic catfish.
“Funding for the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) food program allocates $955 million to food safety activities. While this is a $182 million increase over this year’s funding, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has calculated that it would require $1.4 billion over the next four years to implement the newly enacted Food Safety Modernization Act. Unless the administration plans to increase its requests in future years, the FY 2012 request is half what the CBO estimated it would require to implement the new law.”
A Funding Drought for Small and Rural Communities
“The president’s budget cuts $550 million in federal funding for wastewater infrastructure over current levels. This is a 26.2 percent decline since 2010; since the current system for funding wastewater infrastructure was introduced in 1991, federal funding has dropped 52 percent.
“The budget also cuts $397 million in federal funding for drinking water infrastructure over current levels. This is a 28.6 percent decline since 2010 and a 42 percent decline since the program was founded in 1997.
“Together the president’s budget calls for a 27.2 percent cut from current funding for our nation’s vital water infrastructure. These cuts will disproportionately affect small and rural communities, which depend more on government aid because they cannot utilize the municipal bond market to fund infrastructure repair and maintenance.”
Cut Funding for Misguided, Unsustainable Fishing Practices
“One area where the budget should be cut is the $54,002,000 for funding the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) implementation of its National Catch Share Program. A wildly unpopular management tool, catch shares have been proven to skew fisheries toward industrial production, decrease job opportunities and wages for workers and devastate coastal and fishing communities.
“So controversial are catch shares in fact, that NOAA has also requested an extra one million dollars in funds to defend against litigation anticipated in reaction to its catch shares program. Moreover, the budget shifts $17 million towards the National Catch Shares Program and away from critical research funds and grants used to collaborate with fishermen to promote better fisheries management.
“NOAA also intends to waste public dollars and promote outdated, polluting practices by funding $4.3 million in ocean aquaculture pilot projects. Farming fish in the open ocean has been shown to compromise marine environments and disrupt local ecosystems.
“Meanwhile, NOAA has grossly under-requested funds for other important matters, in particular oil spill recovery efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, which have been allocated a mere $2.9 million dollars.”