By Jeremy Bloom
One result of the impending sequester could be a meat shortage, starting in April.
Remember all those fun salmonella outbreaks? The FDA has a team of inspectors that go out there and make sure your meat isn’t going
to kill you, but not very many of them (hence all the outbreaks), and if the sequester goes through as currently scheduled, those inspectors will get furloughs, and meat processing will grind to halt.
Food Safety News reports:
The meat industry has responded by arguing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is actually legally obligated to provide Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at meat plants — without an FSIS inspector plants are not allowed to operate — so USDA should instead furlough less important, or “non-essential” employees to meet the automatic cuts.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association on Wednesday accused Vilsack of “using America’s cattlemen and women as pawns in the agency’s political wrangling with Congress”
Funny thing – but that’s exactly what Congress is doing. They passed the sequester in 2011 and could unpass it in a voice vote tomorrow, but they’re too busy using the entire federal government, and all its essential and non-essential services, as pawns in their own game.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says Congress has left him with no choice. He writes to the American Meat Institute:
Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, [Food Safety and Inspection Service] will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order to stay within the budget Congress has given it. …Because we understand that furloughing our food safety inspectors would not be good for consumers, the economy, the meat and poultry industry, or our workforce, we view such furloughs as the last option we would implement to achieve the necessary sequestration cut. However, were sequestration to become a reality, it simply would not be possible for FSIS to achieve the requisite level of savings by furloughing non-front line staff alone as your letter suggests.
This leads to an interesting question… why should vegetarians pay taxes to inspect meat? In fact, why does ANYONE pay taxes to inspect meat?
This would seem like a no-brainer for a service that should be paid for BY THE INDUSTRY and priced into the cost of your steaks and porkchops, not paid for by taxpayers as part of the federal budget.
This is a prime example of warping market forces by hiding the true cost of a product from consumers.