3 ag takeaways from the 2016 White House budget

3 ag takeaways from the 2016 White House budget

Fiscal 2016 budget plans to consolidate food safety roles among federal agencies; cut crop insurance

The President's proposed Fiscal Year 2016 Budget requests, released Monday, include several changes for food, nutrition and agriculture.

Among the most notable: Consolidation of food safety oversight among various federal agencies, including the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the USDA and cuts to crop insurance.

Here's a look at the top three things you need to know about agriculture in the President's proposed FY16 budget:

Copies of the President's FY2016 budget are stacked in the Senate Budget Committee room February 2, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

1. Cuts to crop insurance. According to the budget document, "overly generous benefits have almost eliminated the risk in farming at a cost to taxpayers in the billions." To counteract this, the President's budget plans to reduce the premium subsidy on the harvest price protection revenue insurance, and tighten prevent plant rules.

Responding to the budget Monday, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press call that the changes could help curb the costs of the 2014 Farm Bill, given that lower crop prices will likely increase crop insurance spending.

2. Consolidated food safety oversight. As noted in the President's budget, USDA and FDA share food safety tasks. FDA, for example, handles safety of most foods, but USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service handles meat and poultry.

The budget expects a consolidation of food safety oversight to provide central leadership and "clear lines of responsibility and accountability" to prevent and respond to foodborne illnesses. The specific proposal would meld the FSIS and the food safety related components of the FDA to create a single new agency within Health and Human Services.

On the change, Vilsack explained that the 15 agencies that are currently involved in food safety in the federal government "are probably 14 too many," stressing the budget's goals of efficiency and efficacy in the food system.

The cooperative effort, however, would require Congressional action to provide the President with consolidation authority, Vilsack said – something that hasn't been provided for more than 25 years.

3. More money for antibiotic oversight. A detail that was released last week, the President's budget doubles funding available for antibiotic resistance research and oversight.

Many have pointed to antibiotic use in agriculture and healthcare industries as key drivers of the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a key reason why funding is allocated toward the Department of Health and Human Services, USDA and Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense.

In addition to these key changes, the budget also provides for more attention to rural services, access to food, nutrition programs and access to credit for farmers. It provides about $25 billion in discretionary resources for the Department of Agriculture.

See a fact sheet on the Department of Agriculture outlays in the President's FY16 budget and the full budget as issued by the White House.

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