U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Mark Pryor (Ark.) introduced a bipartisan amendment to the Continuing Resolution (CR) to protect private sector jobs by solving a funding gap for the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The Senators serve as the top members of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

 The Pryor/Blunt 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 the Pryor/Blunt amendment, the Senators aim 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 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 USDA.

“This amendment solves a very pressing issue that impacts each and every American,” Blunt said. “Without this funding, every meat, poultry, and egg processing facility in the country would be forced to shut down for up to two weeks. That means high food prices and less work for the hardworking Americans who work in these facilities nationwide.”

“With the combination of across-the-board spending cuts and sequestration, our meat processing facilities may be forced to furlough food inspectors – hurting our local economies and raising prices for consumers everywhere,” Pryor said. “That’s why I was proud to team up with Senator Blunt on this amendment that would restore funding for the Food Safety and Inspection Service and ensure we have a safe, reliable, and economically sound food industry.”

Elisabeth Hagen, the department’s undersecretary for food safety, said Wednesday it looks as though there will be 11 days of unpaid leave required to meet the across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect March 1. The furloughs days will be approximately one day per week from July through September. A formal schedule has not been released.

Source: Office of Sen. Roy Blunt, Roll Call