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Thanks May Well Be Needed … A Week From Now

January 10, 2014

I set a day aside this week, figuring I would need the time to put together the Alliance’s analysis of the FY 14 appropriations levels contained in the omnibus bill. As of Wednesday — when I expected the bill — it was reported that the House and Senate appropriations committees had final agreements on eight of the 12 subcommittee jurisdictions. I feel certain that Agriculture/FDA was one of the eight … and I was reliably told that one of the remaining four was Labor-HHS.

This reminded me of when the Alliance was started, not quite 8 years ago.  FDA’s BA appropriations at the time was $1.5 billion. The increases had been small in the prior few years and there was no immediate prospect for better treatment in the following few years. That was why the case for creating the Alliance was so compelling.

At the time, I remember how often we were told that FDA’s primary funding problem was that it was in the jurisdiction of the Agriculture appropriations subcommittees. The theory was that agriculture appropriators were only interested in USDA and feeding programs such as food stamps (now known as SNAP). In contrast, it was argued, what FDA needed was to be in the public health-oriented sympathetic hands of Labor-HHS appropriators.

The many individuals involved in creating the Alliance knew — intuitively, if not analytically — that the Alliance should not be advocating for FDA to be moved from Agriculture to Labor-HHS.  History has borne out the wisdom of this — our advocacy on behalf of FDA has been well received by the agriculture appropriations committees from the very first time we met with them.

The results have been striking, as well. FDA’s BA appropriation has grown by $1 billion to about $2.5 billion, with further increases needed and expected. In years when some agencies received small increases, FDA received relatively large ones. In years when few agencies received any increases, FDA always received enough to make a difference. Even in FY 13, FDA’s base appropriation was increased prior to the rescission and sequester, blunting some of the impact.

It may be premature to thank House and Senate agriculture appropriations committee Members and staff for FY 14 increases — after all, we haven’t seen the numbers. However, based on the preliminary numbers adopted by each committee last June, we have every reason to be optimistic.  By this time next week, we hope to be able to report on funding progress that merits notes of appreciation to House and Senate agriculture/FDA appropriators from all Alliance members.

Note: This week’s analysis and commentary was written by Steven Grossman, the deputy executive director of the Alliance for a Stronger FDA.

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