July 23, 2024

Secretary Vilsack Responds to Cattlemen About Sequester Effects

Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack stated in a press conference that sequestration could lead to temporary layoffs of federal meat inspectors. That action would stop meat and poultry processing in this country for that time period. The meat industry responded to this statement by arguing that the USDA is “legally obligated” to provide inspectors at meat plants.

cows grazingNational Cattlemen’s Beef Association president Scott George said in a statement, “while we are certain the USDA contains other ‘non-essential’ employees, the Secretary has chosen to announce the consequences of sequestration in terms of a furlough of FSIS inspectors, essentially threatening to close down all production, processing and interstate distribution of meat. This action has already cost cattle producers significant amounts of money with the downward slide in the futures markets caused by rampant speculation, with untold effect on producers through further regulatory uncertainty.”

Vilsack responded to the NCBA statement by saying that furloughs would be impossible to avoid under sequestration. In the letter, he said that “unfortunately, unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, FSIS will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order to stay within the budget Congress has given it. The Department as a whole has planned extensively on how to address sequestration and has taken all feasible actions to mitigate its impact. As part of this proactive approach, FSIS has undertaken numerous efforts to reduce its operating costs, including streamlining projects, strategic sourcing of procurement contracts, and other innovations.”

He continued, “most components of the FSIS team, whether at the district offices or in the field, are integrated and dependent on each other for the proper inspection of meat and poultry products. Suggesting that one portion of the Agency can be separate and distinct from the other does not take this integration into consideration. Unlike other budget scenarios, such as a short-term government shutdown, the exemption provisions of the sequestration statutes do not include exceptions that would be applicable to FSIS inspection activities.”



  1. What is not understood by the general public is that the FSIS has been making cuts and has been on a pay freeze since 2006. The “Sequestration” has pushed the Department past the point that operations are possible.
    Because of how the FSIS is set up if you lay off ‘non-essential’ the ground workers do not have support or the power to take steps to insure public safety.
    It is wrong that public safety is on the chopping block in the first place but it has hit the point the program could not fuction as intended. This is going to hurt the meat industry and federal workers and the general consumer, and saddly there is little action on both sides to avoid it.

  2. Yes it is the USDA responsiblity as long as they have the money. Fsis had to shut offices and lay off inspectors after the 2011 ag app bill cut 9million from the budget. The catylemens association supports horse slaughter which would take more money away from inspecting meats we raise as food and which we actually eat in this country. They are cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

    How can they support the slaughter of an animal not raised for food when they have to follow food safety guidelines in raising their cattle? How can they justify sending unsafe meat to unsuspecting consumers. Is the almighty dollar mire important than public safety?

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