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Senate Passes Bill To Avert Meat Inspector Furloughs

The U.S. Senate has passed a bill to avert the furlough of USDA meat inspectors and the sporadic closure of meat processing plants. Now it's up to the House.

Strips of bacon cooling on a wire rack.

Photo: Dinner Series (Flicker)

While the Senate's new legislation moves significant amounts of money around to ensure funding for crucial activities, it does not reduce the overall $85 billion in automatic cuts mandated by the sequester.

Bringing Home The Bacon

As part of a larger piece of legislation that aims to keep government agencies funded through the end of September, the U.S. Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to avert the furloughs of meat inspectors throughout the United States.

The measure — which will reallocate $55 million from USDA school equipment grants and maintenance budgets to the Food Safety and Inspection Service — will enable meat inspectors to remain on the job, thereby preventing interruptions of the nation’s meat supply.

With no amendments to the sequester, the federal government faces a large-scale shutdown of programs starting next week.

Averting Furloughs, Plant Closures

Because meat processors cannot operate without inspectors on site, meat processors remain braced to close their doors for eleven days between July and September if the bill doesn’t pass the House.

The disruption could cost the industry up to $10 billion, according Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Employees could stand to lose more than $400 million in wages.

Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR), who co-sponsored the bill with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), told Reuters that by adjusting the budget, “we’ve been able to protect private sector jobs, keep food prices affordable, and help nearly 40,000 employees in my state alone.”

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-WI) both say they expect the bill to pass the House with few or no amendments.

Read More:

  • Senate Approves Funding Bill To Avert Government Shutdown (Reuters)
  • US Senate Acts To Avoid Inspector Furloughs (Reuters)
  • Senate Approves Bill To Avert USDA Meat-Inspector Furloughs (Bloomberg)
Sarah Gordon

Sarah Gordon has been interested in food ethics since she was 15, learned about industrial slaughter, and launched into 10 years of vegetarianism. These days, she strives to be a conscientious omnivore. Now a PhD candidate in folklore, her research has caused her to spend a lot of time in the remote Canadian sub-arctic, where the lake trout (sustainably harvested) tastes amazing.

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