US poultry orgs praise Senate action on meat inspection
US poultry organisations praised the US Senate for passing a continuing appropriations bill that includes a critical amendment that hopefully will prevent a furlough of meat and poultry inspectors this year.
By a voice vote, the Senate approved a resolution authored by Sens. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that provides additional funding to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and that confirms the department has the budgetary flexibility necessary to avoid the furloughs.
“The Senate’s bipartisan action today was an important step in ensuring the nation’s turkey plants continue to operate on a full schedule for the rest of the year,” said NTF President Joel Brandenberger. “The threat of furloughs is not completely gone, but we are hopeful the House will concur in the Senate’s action, and USDA then will take the steps necessary to cancel the planned furloughs.
“Furloughs would have idled plants for one day per week, causing a major disruption in turkey production and economic harm to the family farmers who raise turkeys, the farmers who raise feed for those turkeys, the employees who process and transport the turkeys and, ultimately, to the American consumer who likely would see food prices increase as the food supply tightened.
The National Chicken Council (NCC) also lauded the amendment’s inclusion. “NCC and our members recognise that sequestration presents significant challenges that require USDA and all other federal government agencies to make difficult decisions to prioritise resources,” said NCC President Mike Brown. “But cutting an essential, legally mandated program such as food safety inspection is not the way to address the government’s budget deficit.”
The NCC contended that furloughing FSIS inspectors would be inconsistent with the mandates of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act, which prohibit the production, processing, or interstate distribution of meat, poultry and egg products without federal inspection.
Last month, NCC and almost 40 other meat, poultry, food and grocery manufacturing and restaurant associations sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that the department deem USDA food safety inspectors essential employees in the wake of any budget cuts.
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