USDA Outlines Plans for Meat Inspector Furloughs
March 15, 2013
All U.S. meat inspectors will be furloughed on the same days as the federal meat safety agency, a top U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) official said, leading to spotty meat shortages in the summer and fall as automatic spending cuts shave $53 million off the agency's budget.
Agriculture Undersecretary Elizabeth Hagen told a House appropriations subcommittee on Wednesday that the furloughs, expected to total 11 days before the end of September, were likely to begin in mid-July. None of the days would come consecutively, she added.
Hagen said the nationwide same-day furloughs were designed to treat all regions of the country equally.
All 9,212 U.S. meat safety workers will be furloughed at the same time, including 8,136 "front-line" workers, which includes inspectors, lab workers and investigators, Hagen said.
The Obama administration said meat packers and processors would lose $10 billion in production if there was a two-week shutdown of inspections. Meat plants are not allowed to operate without USDA inspection. There could be spotty meat shortages from a slower production system in the summer and early fall. Reprinted in part from Reuters