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February 05, 2003   Email to Friend 

Debra Davis
(334) 613-4686
February 05, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Details of the Bush Administration's proposed fiscal year 2004 budget for USDA programs and services have been released by Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman. The $74 billion request is 2 percent higher ($1.4 billion) than the previous year and $5.4 billion higher (or 8 percent growth) since fiscal 2001.

Record-level support for USDA's Food Safety Inspection System (FSIS) meat and poultry food safety programs is proposed as well as increases to strengthen agricultural protection systems. FSIS funding will increase to a program level of $899 million, an increase of nearly $42 million over the FY2003 and represents a $117 million (or 15 percent) increase in food safety programs since FY2001.

The $899 million for FSIS is comprised of $797 million in appropriated funds and new fees for inspection services provided beyond an approved shift. In addition, existing user fees are expected to generate $102 million. Funding for FSIS will support 7,680 food safety inspectors, an increase of 80 inspectors, and provide specialized training for the inspection workforce, increase microbiological testing and sampling, strengthen foreign surveillance programs and increase public education efforts.

Regarding homeland security and agricultural protection programs, the budget includes nearly $47 million in new funding to strengthen laboratory security measures; conduct research on emerging animal diseases; develop new vaccines; create new bio-security database systems; and continue development of the unified Federal-State Diagnostic Network for identifying and responding to high risk pathogens. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would receive a $30 million increase for inspection services; expanding the availability of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines; providing protection against chronic wasting disease and poultry diseases; and expanding diagnostic and other scientific/technical services. In addition, $200 million is requested for the National Research Initiative.

The budget proposal includes $2 billion for the Conservation Reserve Program (+$139 million); $850 million for the EQIP program (+$255 million); $250 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program to enroll an additional 200,000 acres; $112 million for the Farmland Protection Program (+$27 million); $85 million for the Grassland Reserve Program (+$13 million): $51 million for Ground and Surface Water Conservation (+$13 million); $42 million for the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (+$16 million); $19 million for the new Conservation Security Program; and $8 million for water conservation and water quality enhancements in the Klamath Basin of Oregon and California.

In addition, the proposed spending plan includes a record of $42.9 billion for domestic food assistance programs, a $1.7 billion increase over FY2003. The budget request supports an estimated 21.6 million for food stamp participants; a record level of 7.8 million low-income, nutritionally at risk, Women Infants and Children (WIC) participants; and, an average of 29 million school children each day in the School Lunch program. The budget also includes a $2 billion contingency reserve for food stamps and a $150 million contingency reserve for WIC to be available to cover unanticipated increases in participation on these programs.

The fiscal 2004 budget proposes foreign market development spending at $6.2 billion. This represents an 18 percent increase since the administration came into office, or $961 million in additional spending since FY2001. Included is funding for USDA's market development programs, including the Market Access and Cooperator Programs, which are increased by $15 million. The budget establishes a new, centralized fund of $6.6 million to support important, cross-cutting trade issues, compliance monitoring, dispute resolution, and biotechnology activities within the department. A program level of $4.2 billion is provided for CCC export credit guarantee activities. Nearly $1.6 billion is requested for U.S. foreign food assistance activities, including $50 million for the new McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.

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