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Coalition Urges Congress To Oppose Administration's Request For User Fees For Meat, Poultry and Egg Inspection

Tuesday, February 9, 1999

Saying that the Clinton Administration’s proposal to collect $504 million in user fees for meat, poultry and egg inspection services disregards legislation passed by the 105th Congress, the American Meat Institute (AMI) and a coalition of 19 food and agriculture organizations today urged Members of Congress to oppose the Administration’s request in the FY 2000 budget.

The coalition noted that Congress has historically rejected requests for meat inspection user fees and that the House of Representatives of the 105th Congress voted them down 0 to 421 for FY 1999. In addition, the Senate last year passed an amendment to the FY 1999 agriculture appropriations bill barring the “salaries and expenses of personnel who prepare or submit” such meat inspection user fee requests as part of the President’s Budget submission to Congress.

“By asking Congress to assess a food safety tax on the meat, poultry and egg industries, to comply with federally mandated inspection programs, the Administration has essentially ignored legislation passed by Congress (Conference Report 105-825) and signed into law (P.L. 105-277) by the President,” the coalition said.

The coalition also noted that the Administration has ignored the advice of its own Department of Agriculture National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection, which recommended against user fees for inspection, saying that “the funding of basic meat and poultry inspection remains an appropriate federal government responsibility which should be funded from general tax revenues.”

AMI and its 19 anti-user fee allies said the proposal represents a tax on consumers, livestock producers and the meat, poultry and egg processing industries at a time when the rural farm economy is working through a period of depressed prices. Levying such a fee would have a negative impact on these efforts, they said, and could damage businesses and lead to a loss of jobs.

Meat, poultry and egg inspection is a public health function mandated by the federal government, they continued. Because the public, not industry, is the beneficiary of this program, it should be funded by the federal government. To transfer funding to the industry would eliminate the government’s incentive to manage program costs and would create the perception that the industry is paying the salaries of those responsible for its regulation.

The coalition said there currently exists a partnership between industry and government to ensure food safety. “Industry has continuously demonstrated its commitment to food safety by investing hundreds of millions of dollars to provide consumers with safe, wholesome and affordable meat, poultry and egg products,” the coalition said, noting an industry investment of more than $1.15 billion to implement the new Pathogen Reduction/HACCP food safety regulation for meat and poultry. “The public, through USDA inspection, has paid for monitoring of industry programs to ensure they work properly.”

In urging Congress to oppose the Administration’s proposal, the coalition noted that no other consumer, producer, labor or industry organization, or any other public policy group, has voiced support for a food tax for meat, poultry and egg inspection.

In addition to AMI, other groups signing the February 9 letter to Congress are: American Association of Meat Processors, American Bakers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Frozen Food Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, Food Distributors International, Food Marketing Institute, Grocery Manufacturers of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Farmers Union, National Food Processors Association, National Meat Association, National Pork Producers Council, National Turkey Federation, Snack Food Association, Southeastern Meat Association, United Egg Association and United Egg Producers.

AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.

For more information contact:
Janet Riley
Vice President, Public Affairs
James Ratchford
Manager, Public Affairs

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