This past Monday brought Nebraska’s coldest snap in three years, with frigid temperatures and enough snow and sleet to make roads dangerous.  Staying home was the best defense from the bitter Arctic cold.

But USDA meat inspectors who opted not to go to work on one of those dangerous winter days were quick to hear about.    It was hard to miss that the local Congressman wrote the Secretary of Agriculture about their absences.

On the same Monday, U.S. Congressman Mike Flood, R-NE, wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack about what he said were “troubling reports” about USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service personnel not reporting for work at the Tyson Pork Plant in Madison, NE.

“Let me be clear,” Flood wrote.  “This is unacceptable and must be remedied immediately. 

Flood’s letter does not mention any complaints he might have received from Tyson managers about any missing USDA inspectors. Still, no pork from human consumption could be produced unless USDA inspectors are present.

Still, the weather was not bothering Flood nearly as much as shift-missing inspectors.

“If our communities can show up to work, the USDA can too, “ he wrote.  “Our pork producers are ready and waiting; our plant wants to operate; the USDA must step up to the plate and fulfill its mission to serve rural America.”

Flood also wrote, “FSIS inspectors are essential employees; they are integral to ensuring consumer safety and disease prevention” and that the inspectors are required to operate meat and poultry processing facilities across the country, and without them, the plant shuts down.”

The last time filling inspector shifts became an issue was early in the pandemic.

Flood did say the safety of Nebraskans is his “top priority,” and he understands “taking necessary steps” in light of “challenging weather.”

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