Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today cosponsored an amendment with Senators Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) to the 2013 continuing resolution that will make sure food inspectors in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) stay on the job to protect the safety and affordability of the nation's food supply. The measure passed the Senate unanimously.
"This was a case where clearly the USDA needed flexibility to prioritize their funding in order to better serve the American people," Hoeven said. "Americans have the highest quality, lowest cost and safest food supply in the world; our amendment preserves that benefit."
If FSIS inspectors were to be furloughed, slaughterhouses and food processing facilities would be forced to shut down because the law requires inspectors to be present during operations. The USDA estimates that there could be 15 days of lost production, resulting in a combined loss of $10 to $11 billion for the beef, poultry and egg industries. The senators say the cost would be passed on to consumers resulting in higher prices at the market.
Additionally, under furlough guidance issued by the USDA in recent weeks, the senators estimated that without action, plants employing 500,000 private sector workers would begin to close for one day a week beginning in July through the end of the fiscal year. This would cost around $400 million in lost private sector-wages, to say nothing of the impact on prices up and down the food supply chain.
The measure repurposes funds from other discretionary USDA programs to offset the cost to keep inspectors working.