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Republican Senators Question USDA Sequester Claims

Senators ask what will happen to travel and operating expenses if meat inspections are sacrificed

Published on: Feb 27, 2013

A group of Senators led by Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Tuesday issued a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack questioning the department's discussion of furloughing meat inspectors due to the sequestration.

The March 1 deadline for the sequester – a series of across-the-board spending cuts – is closing in on legislators hoping to reach a compromise. Earlier this month, Vilsack warned of the cuts, mentioning that meat inspectors could potentially be furloughed for 15 days – a prospect Grassley says will harm workers, farmers and consumers.

Senators ask what will happen to travel and operating expenses if meat inspections are sacrificed
Senators ask what will happen to travel and operating expenses if meat inspections are sacrificed

"I find it hard to believe that reductions can't be made elsewhere in the department that don't impact health and safety," Grassley said in a press statement. "If the department believes it needs to go to these drastic measures, the public ought to know if other areas within the department are seeing the same kinds of cost-saving measures as something as important as meat inspectors."

In the letter sent Tuesday, the senators ask for the clarification of the claim that meat inspectors can be furloughed.  In addition, the senators ask how budget cuts for travel, conferences and operating expenses are being handled.

"The Administration should produce legal justifications and furlough plans to provide transparency to the American people for USDA's implementation of sequestration," Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said.  "The costs to farmers and ranchers, already hard hit by drought, will be enormous. USDA must explain whether it can cut costs and other operating expenses to protect the safety and availability of our food supply."

The White House said earlier this month that up to 2,100 fewer food inspections would occur, "putting families at risk and costing billions in lost food production."

Roberts says that lost production amounts to about $10 billion, and the cuts would impact 6,290 meat, poultry and egg establishments. Further, he says industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.

Signing the letter, along with Grassley and Roberts, are Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Deb Fisher, R-Neb., Mike Johanns R-Neb., John Boozman, R-Mont., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.

Add Comment
  1. Anonymous says:

    Do the Senators think that an entire USDA budget can be re-done overnight? Just because they can't do their jobs and pass a real budget? No, the USDA like many departments will have to reduce each line item by a percentage. Meanwhile, USDA are using up all their time trying to deal with the sequester, (planning, etc), which is a huge wasteful excercise - the fault of the Congress. The only reason these guys wrote a letter is because they are in meat processing states and they probably got a call from Cargill. Fat wallet senators don't get their salaries sequestered, so what do they care?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Knowing that inspectors will not be showing up puts meat production in a different light. Plants can still not be trusted evev under HACCP and SSOP. As long as there are profits to be made manufacturers will cheat. Cook your meat and poultry people. And shut plants with no inspection.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Even without inspectors, all the processing establishments are already under their HACCP and sanitation plan. Inspectors are not at every plant all the time. So a temporary spreadout of the inspection should not have much effect in the short term. It is incomprehensible that the processing plant will have to be shut down because of this, especially plants that do not involve slaughtering of live stocks.