The Senate agreed to an amendment introduced by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) to the bill that would fund the federal government through September that would protect private sector jobs and prevent a potential crisis in America's food supply by solving a funding gap for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The Pryor/Blunt/Coons amendment would transfer $55 million in existing agriculture funds to FSIS in order to ensure food inspectors are not furloughed. These facilities are required by law to have federal inspectors on the production line in order to operate.
In proposing this amendment, the Senators aim is to protect Americans' jobs at meat, poultry, and egg production facilities nationwide. It's estimated that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) projected food inspector furloughs would lead to the closure of nearly 6,300 food inspection facilities across America. As a result, over 500,000 industry workers would lose nearly $400 million in wages.
The Pryor/Blunt/Coons amendment adds no additional cost to the bill. Instead, it moves one-time funding for school equipment grants and deferred maintenance on buildings and facilities at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"The federal workers who inspect meat and poultry are critical not only to our nation's food security, but to the economic stability of many of our rural communities," Senator Coons said. "While we continue working to replace the reckless sequester with responsible deficit-reduction measures, it was important that Congress act to prevent a potential crisis from developing in our nation's food supply. Backlogs in food inspections could result in the shutdown of processing facilities and send devastating ripple effects through rural communities and straight to the shelves of every market and grocery in the country."
Delaware's poultry industry supports more than 13,000 jobs and contributes more than $3.2 billion to the state's economy.
"After much hard work, I'm pleased to see that the Senate has unanimously approved our amendment," Senator Pryor said. "By solving this funding gap, we've been able to protect private sector jobs, keep food prices affordable, and help nearly 40,000 employees in my state alone."
"I'm very pleased the Senate unanimously passed this important amendment, which will help protect every family from paying higher food costs, and ensure hardworking Americans who make a living at these food inspection facilities don't see their wages cut," Senator Blunt said.
U.S. Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) were cosponsors of the amendment.