U.S. Representative K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas), chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, issued the following statement on the announcement that U.S. Agriculture Department meat inspectors may be furloughed if the sequester goes into effect:
"USDA's threat of furloughing federal meat inspectors would severely damage the availability of American meat products. Essential services should not be threatened to make a political point, and ensuring the safety of American meat products is one of the most critical services provided by the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service.
"The USDA itself has even acknowledged how harmful these furloughs would be on American families and workers. The USDA has said that production shutdowns would affect about 6,290 plants, costing more than $10 billion in production losses and $400 million in lost wages. Limited meat supplies would likely drive up prices, impacting families' ability to put food on the table. The USDA's threat to enact these punitive furloughs is irresponsible and indicates the administration's willingness to play politics with people's livelihoods and our food supply.
"Inspecting and ensuring the safety and availability of American meat products is not negotiable. If the USDA's leadership feels furloughs are necessary to comply with the sequester, they need to provide justification and explain why no other cuts are possible. As chairman of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management, I will continue to press the USDA for answers on how it would implement the sequester and the decision-making process behind its cuts."