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Still the Goal for FY 12: A $282 Million Increase

May 14, 2011

In March, FDA testified to the House and Senate subcommittees on its FY 12 request. While FY 11 was still being negotiated, there was little further attention to FY 12.

The FY 12 appropriations cycle has now shifted into gear. The House agriculture/FDA appropriations subcommittee has now been told how much it can spend (“its 302(b) allocation”). The subcommittee mark-up is scheduled in less than two weeks, on May 24. The full committee in less than three weeks, on May 31. The Senate is also interested in moving forward, but without a budget resolution (or comparable agreement) there are uncertainties about how much each subcommittee can spend.

In announcing mark-up dates for all 12 appropriations bills, House appropriations chairman Hal Rogers reiterated his commitment to “on time and on budget.” This is taking the form of an orderly process that would have all full-committee mark-ups completed before August recess and under which remaining items could be completed before September 30. It seems unlikely he can accomplish all this, but no one doubts his resolve.

Under the Rogers’ schedule, agriculture appropriations will be the third bill to move forward, perhaps reflecting a belief that it can be moved forward more quickly than others. Homeland Security and Military Construction/VA are the two that will go before agriculture. More complicated and politically charged ones, with the deepest cuts — Transportation/HUD, Labor-HHS, and State Department/Foreign Operations — are scheduled to be the last three.

Apart from those three subcommittees, the 302(b) allocation for the agriculture/FDA appropriations bill calls for the steepest cuts on a percentage basis. The subcommittee spent $19.992 billion in the just-concluded FY 11 cycle. It will have only $17.250 billion to spend in the FY 12 cycle. This is slightly more than $5 billion under the President’s request and represents a $2.672 billion decrease on a year-over-year basis. We are told that this cut will be much deeper than the one in FY 11, if only because any unspent monies has already been taken back and most of the budgetary tricks have already been applied.

Even if there were the will to move more spending into the agriculture appropriations jurisdiction from other places in the budget, it is hard to see where that would come from. While the House budget resolution calls for a $30 billion cut in discretionary spending, this is an incomplete picture. The Pentagon is slated to receive a $17 billion increase. Altogether non-security related spending would be decreased by about $46 billion.

Given the magnitude of the cuts in agricultural spending proposed by the House, it is hard to imagine FDA emerging with additional monies. Our official position is the $282 million increase proposed for FDA by the President. That said, with such a low allocation for the subcommittee, any increase for FDA would be welcome. Hopefully, we will not face the challenge that we did with HR 1, where FDA was slated for a $242 million (10%) decrease.

In contrast, the Senate has not established its total budget nor how it will be allocated. It is possible that Senate subcommittees, particularly agriculture/FDA, will have more money to work with that the comparable House subcommittee.

As noted in last week’s column, our priority is absolute success for FDA, which means new, additional monies to maintain and expand its capabilities.  Absolute success reflects the real demands on an essential agency with a mounting workload.  We will also be looking for relative success. That is, does the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee allocate FDA more money/cut it less than other budget accounts. If so, this will help us make the case for more funds in the Senate and at conference committee.

As the FY 11 CR battle showed, the opportunity to gain more FDA funding isn’t over until the final numbers are decided upon. As an Alliance, we are going to more offices and re-visiting others in our effort to do everything possible. Please join us — through our efforts and on your own. Our two best arguments right now are: FDA needs to be an exception to budget-cutting because it provides services that are essential; and all stakeholders (including industry) support increased FDA funding.

Note: This analysis and commentary is written by Steven Grossman, Deputy Executive Director of the Alliance.

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