Sequester Alert: Meat is in Danger!

9:33 PM, Feb 15, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- If you think sequestration won't affect you...think again. Those severe, across the board cuts will happen starting March 1st if Congress doesn't stop sequestration. 

Across the board cuts would lead to furloughs of government employees...including food safety inspectors. Without them, we could see shortages... which would lead to higher prices. 

Before you ever lay eyes on those steaks or packaged chickens breasts, they all get inspected at processing plants and slaughter houses. But if those meat inspectors are furloughed, it could create a man-made crisis... courtesy of Congress ... and send the prices skyrocketing. 

Safeway shopper Bob Shepanek said that he doesn't want to pay higher prices for what comes down a political game.
Because Congress can't agree on how to create a balanced budget, it set in motion a meat-cleaver approach known as sequestration. Instead of cutting with a scalpel, all departments face devastating cuts.

The Department of Agriculture says all of its Food Safety Inspection Service employees will face a 15 day furlough. Their absence will impact more than 6,000 establishments such as processing plants, which will face a $10 billion production loss. Employees will lose $400 million in wages. And... for anyone who buys meat or poultry... it'll mean higher prices.

Don Roden, owner of the Organic Butcher of McLean said that if meat inspectors are furlough for three weeks, it'll lead to a production slow down that will create a shortage of supply. He predicted you'd see now just high prices, but empty shelves. He explained that because the meat and poultry that is shipped to grocery stores is processed very quickly, landing on shelves within days. Because he ages his beef, and is a smaller retailed, he believes he would have enough supply for a three week production stoppage, but no longer.

"I like to think that it's not going to happen," said Roden, adding that if sequestration does happen it'll be a hardship for anyone in the food business.

Safeway customer Paul Jacobs says he won't' be stocking up on meat because he doesn't have a freezer. But he's a little frosted over the inaction in Congress.

"That's the way Congress always is. They argue and can never agree. They get paid a lot of money but won't decide." He said they will be hurting senior citizens and the disadvantaged the most.

In a reply to the American Meat Institute, USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack said. "...unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, the FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order stay within the budget Congress has given it."

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