F.A.R.A.D. gets emergency funding to stay afloat

by Bryan Salvage
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WASHINGTON -- The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank, a food-safety program that has been facing closure due to lack of funding, has gotten a temporary reprieve. A $17,000 donation from 12 groups and several private citizens within the animal health and food-safety sectors is expected to keep the program from completely closing while appeals for appropriations are made before the 111th Congress and Obama Administration.

Members of the donor consortium, which was organized by the American Veterinary Medical Association, say that F.A.R.A.D. is essential to protecting the safety of America's food supply and that its demise would have dramatic consequences on animal and human health. The organization is used by veterinarians, livestock producers and regulatory and extension specialists to ensure drug, environmental and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk and eggs. It began shutting down late last year when Congress failed to complete many of the FY 2009 appropriations bills. Within the next week or so, Congress is expected to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the rest of the year. This bill should include funding for F.A.R.A.D., which began operating in 1982.

"Recent food-safety scares have again highlighted how necessary it is for us to maintain a constant vigilance in all areas of our food supply," said Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the A.V.M.A. "Allowing F.A.R.A.D. to die would create a security breech in the safety of America's food."

Congress authorized long-term funding of $2.5 million annually for F.A.R.A.D. in last year's Farm Bill. The U.S.D.A., however, has not included monies for the program in its annual budget.

Federal agencies pledged in December to provide $125,000 in bridge funding -- $75,000 from the U.S.D.A. and $50,000 from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration -- to keep F.A.R.A.D.'s doors temporarily open. As of early February, the moneys had yet to be received, according to F.A.R.A.D. administrators.

Donors remain optimistic that the new Congress and Administration will see the urgency in saving the critical program.

"We're working with Congress right now to secure long-term funding for F.A.R.A.D.," Dr. DeHaven said. "With enough citizen support, we believe we have a chance at keeping the program alive."

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