March 1, 2013
Automatic U.S. budget cuts set to take effect today will eventually cause meat shortages due to layoffs of safety inspectors, but the government may stagger the furloughs to lessen the impact, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack said Wednesday in an interview with Reuters.
"At some point, you're going to have shortages," Vilsack said. "The reality is there are going to be disruptions."
He said USDA would try to minimize the impact on consumers and the meat industry by staggering the furloughs but did not specify a timetable for when those cuts would occur.
Although the budget cuts are due to take effect Friday, USDA's various labor contracts require between 30 and 120 days' notice on furloughs, which would affect the date on which furloughs would begin.
A group of U.S senators, led by Sen. Grassley (Iowa), is asking Vilsack to clarify how meat inspectors can be furloughed under sequestration and provide the legal rationale that would allow it to occur.
"Furloughing meat inspectors may shut down meat and poultry facilities and harm workers, farmers and consumers. I find it hard to believe that reductions can't be made elsewhere in the department that doesn't impact health and safety," Grassley said in a statement.
Reprinted in part from meatingplace.com