WASHINGTON – The American Meat Institute, along with 16 other food and beverage trade associations, urged in a letter to the chairman and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations, that the committee not use FDA “user fees” to pay for implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

On Jan. 4, President Obama signed the FSMA into law. FDA’s 2012 budget proposal targets raising revenue from these new fees starting in 2013 to assist FDA implement the new law. Congress rejected such fees during congressional consideration of FSMA.

“While ensuring the safety of the US food supply is the number-one priority of our organizations and the food producers we represent, we urge you to reject any efforts to create a new food tax on consumers and food companies,” the letter states.

Although the White House has requested targeted funds for FSMA’s implementation of $100 million for 2012, congressional budget experts claim it will take at least $300 million a year to implement.

“Given that discrepancy, the administration should have requested more funds for FDA in their budget submission rather than relying on congressionally rejected user fees to make up the difference,” the letter pointed out. “Imposing new fees on food facilities would represent a food safety tax on consumers. As food companies and consumers continue to cope with a period of pro-longed economic turbulence, the creation of a new food tax would mean higher costs for businesses and higher food prices for consumers.

“We urge Congress to reaffirm its stated opposition to imposing new user fees on food producers and stand ready to work with Congress and the administration to find a better and less burdensome solution,” the letter concluded.

A hearing was scheduled by the House Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA and Related Agencies Subcommittee on Appropriations to take place March 11 on the president's 2011 budget request for FDA.