The North American Meat Processors Association confirmed on Thursday that all front-line inspectors and all enforcement, investigations and analysis officers have been deemed "essential employees" and will continue to work if the federal government shuts down at midnight tonight.
Under federal law, meat and poultry plants may not operate without oversight from federal inspectors. Nearly 8,000 inspectors oversee 6,200 plants nationwide and ensure compliance with federal rules regarding product safety, labeling and humane treatment of livestock.
If a federal government shutdown did keep inspectors out of plants, it would impact 3.7 million jobs and cause a loss of approximately $3 billion in economic activity per day.
"American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) leaders met this week with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) political appointees and members of the U.S. Congress regarding questions on federal funding and programs important to the sheep industry," stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director. "Meetings were also held with USDA regarding it's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) programs that previously had funding eliminated as they were considered directives, such as recently happened to predator programs in nine states."
USDA APHIS plans to send letters to the affected cooperators and, "of course in the event of a shut down, broader distribution of information will be available on services that will not be available in the interim."