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AMI boss to Obama: Meat industry will shut down if you furlough federal meat inspectors

By Elaine WATSON , 12-Feb-2013

Furloughing 6,000+ federal meat inspectors due to automatic budget cuts imposed under sequestration would effectively shut down the meat and poultry industry and violate the government’s legal obligation to keep inspectors at work, claims the American Meat Institute (AMI).

In a letter to President Obama, AMI chief executive J. Patrick Boyle said USDA must provide inspection services by law, and if they are not inspected, meat and poultry processing plants cannot operate.

He added: “Last Friday Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack stated that in a sequestration scenario across the board cuts would result in furloughs of necessary inspectors, in turn forcing meat and poultry plants to close.”

Last week, Secretary Vilsack said if across-the-board sequestration goes into effect on March 1, meat inspectors would be furloughed for 15 days

This, he claimed, would “cause production losses of $10bn, cost company employees more than $400m in lost wages, and impose untold losses on the more than one million livestock and poultry producers in this country.

“I respectfully request that, in the event of sequestration, USDA meat and poultry inspectors not be furloughed so that the Secretary of Agriculture can fulfill his statutory obligations.”

USDA should instead explore other options such as suspending non-essential programs and furloughing non-essential personnel in areas are not directly involved in in-plant inspection, he suggested.

The term ‘furlough’ refers to forced, unpaid leave, which allows employers to maintain staff in the hope that their financial circumstances will change.

Sequestration -a legacy of the 2011 impasse between Obama and congressional Republicans over raising the nation's debt limit - refers to automatic across-the-board government spending cuts that will kick in on March 1 unless a deal can be reached in Congress over reducing the country's debt.

To read the letter, click here.

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