U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today sponsored a bipartisan amendment to prevent furloughs of meat and poultry inspectors and protect processing facility jobs from temporary shutdowns the furloughs would cause. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has threatened to furlough inspectors at the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) in order to cope with the spending reductions that took effect earlier this month due to legislation signed into law more than a year and a half ago.
"Protecting jobs and keeping the markets open for our livestock producers should be a top priority," Johanns said. "This amendment does that by allowing food inspectors to keep working so the employees at meat, poultry and egg processing facilities can stay on the job. Providing essential government services and reducing spending do not have to be at odds, and this amendment proves that it is possible to do both."
The amendment would transfer approximately $55 million in existing USDA funds to FSIS in order to ensure food inspectors are not furloughed. FSIS furloughs would force meat processing facilities to stop operation because federal law requires facilities to have inspectors on the production line in order to operate.
The amendment, if adopted, would ensure as many as 500,000 employees at meat, poultry, and egg production facilities nationwide are protected from layoffs related to the furloughs. Nebraska ranks first in red meat processing and second in cattle in feedlots.
The amendment was introduced by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).