WASHINGTON – Two-dozen food and agriculture trade associations including the American Meat Institute, have united in opposing user fees for government mandatory inspection programs for meat, poultry and egg processors. The coalition voiced its unified opposition in letters sent to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committee, Budget Committee and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. The Obama Administration included user fees in its proposal for the Fiscal Year 2012 US Department of Agriculture budget.

Seeing that meat, poultry and egg inspection protects public health and safety and benefits all US consumers, the letter argued the inspection should be paid for through appropriated funds.

User fees for mandated meat inspection services have long been opposed by AMI, which charges the fees ultimately will be passed onto consumers as higher meat, poultry and egg prices.

“In reality, these fees represent a food-safety tax on consumers and not just a fee on processors,” the groups stated. “The proposed tax will make the current equitable funding mechanism inherently regressive, since low and middle-income families spend a higher portion of their income on food than do wealthier Americans. Furthermore, this proposal to transform government-funded food safety inspection provides less accountability for the government to manage program costs, results and efficiencies.”

Their letter concluded by urging Congress to continue opposing proposals to assess new user fees to partially or wholly fund federally mandated meat, poultry or egg product inspection.