The Indiana Board of Animal Health has received approval for a plan to cut back on state meat inspection. The proposal is less than the 50 percent cut called for by the Gov. Mitch Daniels’ office, but is still a severe cutback in state meat inspection, reports Hooser Ag Today. Some state inspectors would lose their jobs, under the proposed cuts. The original plan for a 50 percent reduction led to numerous complaints that it would drive small plants out of business and hurt small livestock farms.

“In Indiana, we have a lot of local food efforts where producers are marketing their products directly to consumers. This will impact how they do business,” said Greg Slipher, a livestock specialist with the Indiana Farm Bureau.

Slipher said that the cuts could not have come at a worse time, as Indiana pork and beef producers are already facing financial losses. “We appreciate the Governor’s position on state revenue, but we have to realize this will have an impact on the local level,” he said. Some state processing facilities may have to cut back on employees, and processors would have to streamline slaughter operations in order to conform with fewer inspectors.

State Veterinarian Bret Marsh sent a letter to meat processors Jan. 6 warning them that a 50 percent budget cut would take effect July 1. Since the federal government matches state funding dollar for dollar, the budget cut would be nearly $2 million, the letter said. Since then, the size of the proposed cut has been reduced, though it is still significant.

Greg Fisher, president of the Indiana Meat Packers and Processors Association, said many had been worried that the reduced availability of state inspectors would mean they could not process as many animals, forcing some out of business just as the industry is growing with the popularity of locally raised meat, according to AP reports.

"My initial reaction is that I'm glad our voice is being heard, but I hope it's not just lip service. I hope this still allows people to grow and prosper," said Fisher, who has a Portland-based, family-run packing business with 50 employees.

Source: Hooser Ag Today, Associated Press

Morton's names new CEO

Morton's Restaurant Group Inc. announced the appointment of Christopher Artinian as president and CEO and as a director, effective immediately. Artinian replaces Thomas J. Baldwin, who has resigned from his position as president, CEO and chairman of the company's board of directors. Artinian previously served as vice president of Eastern operations, and has been with Morton’s since 1995.

"Chris Artinian has impressed us with his strong management skills throughout his career at the company," said John Castle, chairman of the executive committee of the company's board of directors. "We are confident Chris will continue to build the Morton's brand and lead the Company to strong future performance."

Castle continued, "We thank Tom Baldwin for his significant contributions over the last 21 years as a member of our management team and for his strong leadership during a critical period for the company."

"I know Morton's Restaurant Group to be a dynamic company with exciting opportunities," Artinian said. "It is a privilege to lead Morton's Restaurant Group and I look forward to working with our talented employees to continue to deliver our customers the finest quality foods and legendary hospitality."

Source: Morton’s Restaurant Group Inc.