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USDEC and NMPF Raise Concerns about Impact Reorganization Proposals on Trade Policy, Food Safety Agencies

February 3, 2012

NMPF has expressed concerns about the potential impact on U.S. dairy exports of a recent proposal to consolidate government agencies.

President Obama recently announced his proposal to reinstate the Office of the President’s authority to reorganize the government. His first proposed use of that authority would be to consolidate six agencies dealing with trade and commerce into one.

NMPF, and the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), praised the Administration’s effort to ensure that agencies involved in efforts related to trade are operating in the smoothest and most coordinated way possible. But they expressed deep concerns that including the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in the process could detrimentally affect U.S. ability to effectively negotiate and enforce trade agreements. Both organizations indicated that they supported the overall effort, but would oppose the inclusion of USTR in such a reorganization out of concern that it would damage the agency’s effectiveness.

“NMPF’s members want to see an efficiently operated and cost-effective U.S. government,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of NMPF. “However, as we pursue the important goal of seeking greater government efficiencies, we need to ensure that this process does not undermine the ability of critical agencies to carry out their missions. In this instance, NMPF is very concerned that USTR’s unique role in trade negotiations and its superb level of openness to input from the public would be greatly harmed by submerging this agency within a larger bureaucracy.”

In a related issue, Office of Management and Budget Director for Management Jeff Zients stated that a subsequent effort would be to consolidate USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) with the food safety unit at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). NMPF and USDEC also noted with interest this proposal, which, as announced, would not directly impact dairy products, since only meat products are inspected by FSIS.

However, the statement did not reference what impact such a food safety consolidation might have on the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, which currently plays a key official role as a proxy for FDA on many export-related issues, given the lack of FDA mandate to address export matters. The fact that FDA is not charged with a responsibility for supporting U.S. food exports has in the past created unnecessary hurdles to resolving U.S. dairy export challenges, given FDA’s oversight of dairy products. NMPF and USDEC support efforts to rationalize FDA’s role with respect to exported products in order to most effectively make use of government oversight responsibilities.