April 23, 2018

Congress Acts To Avoid Meat Inspector Furloughs

Congress has acted to avoid the furlough of U.S. meat inspectors this summer by approving a $55 million shift in funding for the  U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Without that action, the USDA would have had to schedule furloughs for all meat inspectors beginning in mid-July.

Under federal law, plants that process meat, poultry and eggs canno operate without the presence of federal inspectors. A 15-day nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants would cost the industry more than $10 billion and industry workers more than $400 million in wages, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski in February.

Senators Mark  Pryor (D-AR),  Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Chris Coons (D-DE) drafted the Senate version of the amendment to the Continuing Resolution that would shift the funds and avoid the furlough.  “The federal workers who inspect meat and poultry are critical not only to our nation’s food security, but to the economic stability of many of our rural communities,” Coons said. “While we continue working to replace the reckless sequester with responsible deficit-reduction measures, it was important that Congress act to prevent a potential crisis from developing in our nation’s food supply. Backlogs in food inspections could result in the shutdown of processing facilities and send devastating ripple effects through rural communities and straight to the shelves of every market and grocery in the country.” The bill now goes to President Obama for his signature.

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