Photo: Tax Credits (Flickr)
On March 1, The United States crashed over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” forcing the federal government to begin the implementation of an $85 billion reduction in spending.
Due to the U.S. Government’s significant involvement in food markets in the form of regulation, agricultural assistance and anti-poverty programs, the sequester stands to have a marked impact the nation’s food supply.
Food Supply, Safety Are At Risk, Say FDA and USDA
Both the USDA and the FDA — the two principle regulatory bodies responsible for food and drug safety in the United States – are facing severe budget cuts.
The USDA, which recently trimmed $700 million from its operating budget, will have to accommodate between $1 and $1.5 billion in further cuts. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced March 1 that if the sequester is not resolved soon, the USDA would be forced to furlough meat inspectors.
Cuts to inspector capacity may eventually force some processing facilities to slow or halt production. Meat shortages are likely to follow weeks to months later.
Furthermore, the FDA will be forced to slow or halt its ongoing work to implement 2011′s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
Farmers Fear Credit Cuts
The Farm Service Agency will have to decrease credit available to farmers by $34 to $35 million.
An estimated 1,500 farmers in need of credit will likely be denied access.
The FSA’s credit line for small, family-owned farms will be hit hardest, with a cut of $5.4 million resulting in 890 fewer loans.
SNAP Safe, But Not WIC
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, is exempt from sequester cuts, but the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program stands to lose $692 million in funding.
WIC provides nutritional counseling, healthy food and breastfeeding support to low-income pregnant women and new mothers. The program is designed to ensure that infants and young children have the nutrition they need to develop properly in their earliest stages of life.
Under the sequester, between 575,000 and 750,000 eligible women could be denied WIC benefits.
Food banks that have recently suffered budget cuts due to Congress’s failure to pass a farm bill are bracing for another wave of reductions.
- Vilsack: Under Sequestration, USDA Cannot Avoid Furloughing Meat Inspectors (Food Safety News)
- Sequester Expected To Have Big Impact On Food Safety; Details Unknown (Food Safety News)
- The Impact Of The Sequester On WIC (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
- What Sequestration Could Mean For Agriculture (Florida Organic Growers)