US meat industry threatened

AMI chief executive J Patrick Boyle warns Obama on meat inspector job cutsAccording to recent media reports, the threat of furloughing 6 000+ federal meat inspectors due to automatic budget cuts imposed under sequestration would effectively shut down the US meat and poultry industry and violate the government’s legal obligation to keep inspectors at work, claims the American Meat Institute (AMI). Last week, US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reported that, if across-the-board sequestration goes into effect on 1 March, meat inspectors would be furloughed for 15 days.

Untold losses 

In a letter to President Obama, AMI chief executive J Patrick Boyle wrote that the USDA must provide inspection services by law, and if they’re not inspected, meat and poultry processing plants cannot operate. The sequestration, he claimed would ‘cause production losses of $10 billion, cost company employees more than $400 million 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 fulfil his statutory obligations.’

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

Financial challenges 

  • 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 1 March unless a solution can be reached over reducing the country’s debt.

To read the letter, click here.