FARAD receives emergency funding

A long-running and crucial food safety program that began shutting down due to lack of government funding has been granted a last-minute financial stay of execution, receiving emergency temporary funding from a consortium of nonprofit organizations and individual taxpayers who believe the program is too important to public health to allow to fail.

The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank (FARAD) received a total of $17,000 in combined donations from 12 groups and several private citizens within the animal health and food safety sectors - a stop-gap grant intended to keep the program from completely closing while appeals for appropriations are made before the 111th Congress and Obama Administration. Late last year, FARAD began cutting staff and cannibalizing its expenses to maintain a skeleton operation while it searched for the funding necessary for its survival.

Members of the donor consortium, which was organized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), say that FARAD is essential to protecting the safety of America's food supply and that its demise would have dramatic consequences on animal and human health.

"Recent food safety scares have again highlighted how necessary it is for us to maintain a constant vigilance in all areas of our food supply," said Dr. W. Ron DeHaven, Chief Executive Officer of the AVMA. "Allowing FARAD to die would create a security breech in the safety of America's food."

Used by veterinarians, livestock producers, and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists to ensure that drug, environmental and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk and eggs, FARAD began shutting down late last year when Congress failed to complete many of the FY 2009 appropriations bills. Within the next week or so, Congress is expected to pass an omnibus appropriations bill to fund the government for the rest of the year. This bill should include funding for FARAD, which began operating in 1982.

Congress authorized long-term funding of $2.5 million annually for FARAD in last year's Farm Bill. The USDA, however, has not included monies for the program in its annual budget.

Federal agencies pledged in December to provide $125,000 in bridge funding - $75,000 from the USDA and $50,000 from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration - to keep FARAD's doors temporarily open. As of early February, the moneys had yet to be received, according to FARAD administrators.

Donors providing the emergency monies emphasized that stakeholders and nonprofit organizations can not permanently fill the budget void. But they remain optimistic that the new Congress and Administration will see the urgency in saving the critical program.

"We're working with Congress right now to secure long-term funding for FARAD," Dr. DeHaven said. "With enough citizen support, we believe we have a chance at keeping the program alive."

In addition to the AVMA, contributors to the $17,000 to temporarily fund FARAD include: American Association of Avian Pathologists, American Association of Bovine Practitioners, American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners, American Dairy Goat Association, American Sheep Industry Association, American Society of Animal Science, International Nubian Breeders Association, National Saanen Breeder Association, South Central Texas Dairy Goat Club, Walstone Farm (alpine dairy goats), Dr. Joseph L. Blair (on behalf of American Association Food Hygiene Veterinarians), and personal contributions from AVMA staff.

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