The meatpacking industry hopes federal inspectors would be exempt from furloughs if the government shuts down. Meat processors can’t operate without the inspectors on the job. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today that he won’t tell the companies before the inspectors are notified.

Vilsack told reporters that there is an exemption for workers who are critical to public safety but he stopped short of saying that would apply to meat inspectors, reports the Des Moines Register.

The American Meat Institute said shutting down the industry could cost the economy $3 billion a day. “The longer a shutdown is in place, the greater the negative impact throughout the meat and poultry supply chain and ancillary industries,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president of the group.

Meat inspectors should be exempt from furloughs because “they play a critical role in protecting the health and safety of individuals,” Boyle said.

Source: Des Moines Register