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Meat Inspector Furloughs Months Away, Says Vilsack

Furloughs of meat inspectors will take “several months” to roll out, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told lawmakers on Tuesday.

The department will send out notices to union representatives this week letting them know furloughs are possible, Vilsack told members of Congress at a House Agriculture Committee hearing, according to multiple media reports.

“We will do everything we can to minimize the disruption,” said Vilsack. “We are looking at a several-month period before furloughs can be implemented.”

The secretary also said furlough days might be closer to 11 or 12. The Obama administration had originally estimated it might take as many as 15 days of inspector furloughs to meet the budget cuts.

Pulling USDA meat inspectors off the front lines is a damaging prospect to the industry because meat plants can’t operate without them if they want to ship their meat across state lines. Such distribution without inspection would be against the law.

Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) said the administration’s warnings about furloughing meat inspectors were having a negative impact on the economy.

“Members of this committee have heard from constituents that these statements about the interruption of production have affected prices, caused concern among financial markets, and alarmed buyers and sellers in the retail and food-service community,” said Lucas, according to Bloomberg.

USDA has said that a two-week furlough could cost the meat industry more than $10 billion and cost workers another $400 million in wages.

Pictured: Secretary Vilsack testifying before the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. Photo by Lance Cheung courtesy of USDA. 

© Food Safety News
  • Jacob Barber

    Why do we worry about this law concerning meat inspection.  This admin defies many of the laws with more of a consequence.  It sure is nice this over hypted scare tatic.  Oh well many of the dumb public that voted him n will believe anything they say.  It good to here Vilsack is firmly inline.  No false statements from him.

  • MSH54

    No false statements from Vilsack?  He is part of the “chicken little” problem.  These clowns talk about the cuts, what they are going to do to the American public, disrupt the cattle markets therefore affecting farmers and ranchers livelihoods, whom they are supposed to be working for, not to mention meat inspectors who haven’t received a pay raise in 3 years, the plant workers who will not get paid because the meat inspectors have to be inplant for the plants to be in operation.  It just doesn’t affect meat shipment crossing state lines.  We export meat and meat products to nearly every country in the world.  We feed the world.  And then on the very day sequestration goes into effect, our esteemed elected officials give Egypt 250 million dollars?  Give me a break.  How stupid do these people think we are?  Every incumbent elected official in Washington needs to be fired.  How do we do that?  Not vote them in.  When is the American public going to wake up?

  • oldcowvet

    meat connot enter commerce if it is not inspected, not just interstate commerce.  and now make the furlough in the last 2-3 months of the fiscal year, so it is more painful, yikes.