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Congress and the Obama Administration have yet to reach agreement on how to deal with the looming budget sequestration that is schedule to take effect at the beginning of March 2013.
The across-the-board budget cuts resulting from sequestration would impact agencies across the federal government, including the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’ Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). FSIS provides critical inspection services to meat and poultry slaughter, packing and warehousing facilities.
USDA officials recently stated that one of the impacts of budget sequestration could be the furloughing of FSIS inspectors for up to two weeks. This would effectively shut down the nation’s meat and poultry facilities. It has been estimated that such a shutdown would cause $10 billion in production losses and $400 million in lost wages.
In response to USDA’s threat to close down inspections, industry has taken a strong stance that FSIS can find the required savings without furloughing inspectors and that the agency has a legal obligation to continue inspections.
The posturing by USDA is seen by many as part of the gamesmanship between the Obama Administration and Congress as the two sides struggle to reach an agreement. USDA has since clarified that furloughing inspectors would be a "last option," but may be required for FSIS to comply with the budget sequestration.