United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann Veneman has requested $72 billion from the Senate Appropriations Committee to fund the department's ongoing programs in fiscal 2002. The amount represents an $883 million increase over USDA's 2000 budget.

While the budget does not propose any new user fees for meat, poultry or egg inspection, it does request funding for inspection staff so that slaughter plants can maintain their current pace of operations.

Noting USDA's concern over containing both foot-and-mouth disease and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow Disease), Veneman requested a $174 million increase that would allow USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to continue emergency programs already underway. She also requested a significant increase in funding for the Agricultural Quarantine Inspection program, which would increase inspection levels at U.S. ports and borders.

Veneman, who characterized the budget as "responsible, yet restrained" said the funding also reflects other priorities, including implementation of the new Agricultural Risk Protection Act, which aims to provide farmers with improved crop insurance, and maintaining the Food Safety and Inspection Service's (FSIS) meat and poultry inspection workforce.

Other funds would be targeted toward improving agricultural quarantine inspection activities and contending with pest and disease infestations; supporting USDA's food assistance programs; redirecting USDA research into new areas; and supporting the department'' rural development activities.