The Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service will have to furlough meat, poultry and egg product inspections if sequestration goes into effect on March 1, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter to the American Meat Institute this week.
AMI President and CEO J. Patrick Boyle had written Vilsack and President Barack Obama that USDA has a "statutory obligation" to keep FSIS inspectors on the job.
Vilsack replied that FSIS has already cut expenses to try to shorten the furloughs, but will have to enact them.
The White House said this month that inspector furloughs would cause production in meat, poultry and egg product plants to shut down, impacting about 6,290 establishments nationwide and costing more than $10 billion in production losses, while industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.
Meat supplies would be disrupted and prices would be likely to rise, the White House said.
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