The House of Representatives yesterday approved a $55 million shift of funds within the USDA in order to prevent any layoffs of federal meat inspectors and disruption to the meat and poultry industry. The money was part of a bill to pay for federal operations through the end of this fiscal year, reports Reuters.
In a special step, lawmakers shifted $55 million in Agriculture Department funding so that its food safety agency would have enough money to keep its 8,400 inspectors on the job. Senators wrote the shift into the bill on Wednesday, the House approved it and sent it to President Barack Obama on Thursday.
The amendment was originally drafted by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.).
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement the $55 million "provides us with funding to help address those furloughs."
Without the additional funds, the USDA was planning on 11 furlough days staggered throughout the summer months, roughly amounting to one unpaid day off per week from July through September. No meat processing would have been able to take place in federally inspected meat and poultry plants on those days, which could have potentially led to higher meat prices and shortages.
“We appreciate Congress’ leadership and we are particularly grateful for the efforts of Senators Pryor and Blunt, who offered an amendment to fund USDA’s meat and poultry inspection program,” said AMI President J. Patrick Boyle in a statement. “We are gratified that lawmakers recognized the essential nature of meat and poultry inspection by taking this step to prevent inspector furloughs.”
Sources: Reuters, AMI