This week, President Donald Trump released an outline of his first federal budget. His 2018 budget plans include slashing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) funding by a whopping $4.7 billion. This will bring the agency’s budget down to a total of about $17.9 billion, representing a 21 percent cut compared to the previous fiscal year.
Budget cuts will affect a number of USDA’s programs, including food safety and international food aid--both of which are lumped into what’s been categorized as “discretionary” spending.
The president’s current budget blueprint does not appear to specifically include cuts for USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service--the wing that is responsible for the safety of meat, chicken and egg products produced in (and imported into) the U.S. Reports indicate that the president’s budget plans do account for continued funding of meat inspections, however, monies for agriculture and food safety research are on the chopping block.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)--which controls the overwhelming majority of food inspections in the U.S., is expected to experience an 18 percent budget reduction. This could put food safety in jeopardy because it could place less emphasis on inspecting imported foods at exactly the time when more food than ever is being brought in from beyond U.S. borders. This naturally leads to fear of the potential for more food recalls, foodborne-related outbreaks and illnesses. FDA is housed under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a completely separate entity not associated with USDA.
President Trump’s pick to head up USDA--former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue--has yet to be confirmed by the Senate.