A coalition of meat, poultry and egg industry interests recently submitted a letter to the congressional Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, also known as the “Super Committee,” urging it to reject a proposed U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) fiscal year 2012 budget that would impose “user fees” on industry for government-mandated food safety inspection programs. Claiming that the inspection programs have been funded by taxpayers for more than a century, the trade associations contend that “user fees” would affect the price of meat, effectively imposing a regressive tax on low- and middle-income families who “spend a higher portion of their income on food than do wealthier Americans.” The letter does not indicate how government food safety inspections can be maintained if the Super Committee, tasked with making significant reductions in the U.S. deficit, slashes USDA’s budget.
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R) reportedly called for rollbacks in government food safety regulations during a visit to a Des Moines meatpacking facility. According to a news source, Bachmann cut ribeye steaks in a meat locker while claiming that government regulations are overburdening food producers. She was quoted as saying, “We want to have safety. But we also want to have common sense.” Without naming which regulations should be rescinded, Bachmann apparently claimed they are too complicated and expensive. The owner of the 140-year-old family-run business at which she staged the event opined that large meat processors should be subject to more rigorous testing regimens; Kent Wiese suggested that the government just conduct tests at smaller facilities like his own just once “and be done with it.” See Huffington Post, September 20, 2011.