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U.S. Department of Agriculture head Tom Vilsack says sequestration may cause the furlough of USDA food inspectors, possibly leading to meat, poultry and egg shortages.
Vilsack said in the interview that if sequestration occurs, furloughing would not happen immediately. He also noted that the USDA might be forced to lay off the nation’s 8,400 meat inspectors for the equivalent of 15 days to get the savings the agency needs. However, he added that layoffs would be staggered to cushion the impact. [via National Restaurant Association]
This is not sitting well with quite a few people, including restaurant owners and food producers.
Earlier this month, the National Restaurant Association sent a letter to Vilsack asking him to reconsider his furlough plan. The letter was signed by numerous trade associations representing the food industry, including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Pork Producers Council, United Egg Producers and the Food Marketing Institute. [NRA]
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has pointed out that the USDA has two wine and food tasting conferences coming up. Why spend money on those when the money would be better used for inspectors?
“USDA has upcoming conferences on food tasting and wine tasting on the West Coast,” Coburn said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “I think this is something the Department of Agriculture ought to cancel. [via Ramsey Clark, The Hill]