Get ready for a meat shortage

The Agriculture Department warns that the looming budget sequester could idle federal inspectors of meat and poultry plants for two weeks.

By Aimee Picchi Feb 20, 2013 2:31PM

Packaged ground beef (© Frank Bean/Uppercut RF/Getty Images)It's something shoppers don't give a lot of attention to when buying hamburger or chicken breasts: the little circle that verifies the meat has been inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But without that stamp, meat can't be sold by packers and processors.


That's bad news because the looming U.S. government sequester means meat and poultry plants won't be able to receive their inspections, potentially leading to a shortage of everything from prime rib to chicken wings.


The sequester -- slated for March 1, unless Congress finds a way to sidestep the start of $85 billion in mandated federal budget cuts -- would keep meat inspection personnel from going to work for as many as 15 days, according to a letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that the U.S. Department of Agriculture released and was reported by Reuters.


Such a "nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants during a furlough of (meat) inspection personnel" could lead to $10 billion in production losses, Vilsack wrote. 


Meat and poultry industry groups are alarmed at the prospect, with organizations such as the Poultry Federation and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association sending a letter to Vilsack earlier this month. 


Their letter, which asks that the USDA avoid furloughing its inspectors, notes the shutdown would have wide-ranging effects. 


"Farmers raising livestock and poultry would have nowhere to send their animals and would have to shoulder substantial losses," it reads. "And, most alarming, American consumers could face their first widespread shortage of meat, poultry, and egg products in generations."


Vilsack didn't say when the furloughs would begin, although he told USDA employees earlier this month they'd get at least 30 days notice, according to Reuters. 


Meat production isn't all that would be affected. Other layoffs by the Agriculture Department would mean 600,000 low-income women and infants would be cut from the WIC program, which supplies food and nutritional education, Reuters notes. About 9 million pregnant women, new moms and their children use the program.


The Forest Service would also close 670 of its 19,000 recreation sites, probably during spring and summer, and cut 35 workers from its law enforcement force. 


More on moneyNOW

315Comments
Feb 20, 2013 4:25PM
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Ooh, no meat due to the Republican Sequester. Those bastards ruin everything! Why do people follow the GOP, whose failed cold war policies overseas have now turned inward, to destroy our own country by de-stabilizing our economy, just because they don't recognize the President elected by a majority wasn't the one the Tea Party wanted?  That's pretty un-American, if you ask me. They really should pay even more in the next election!

 

The Sequester will remove border patrol, remove funding for the VA, remove head-start programs for our kids, remove hundreds of thousands of government employees from all the agencies that test our food, our water, our air, while cutting defense spending, while we are trying to get our troops safely out of Afghanistan. It will cut funding for investments into green technology and upgrades for our power grid, and our internet access to rural areas.

 

All of these cuts are because Republicans will allow not one loophole for the rich to be even discussed on the floor of the House or Senate. Republicans refuse to allow us to eliminate the assinine Oil Company subsidies, while the Oil Companies hide their profits off-shore, while the GOP will not allow our government to cut the Cayman Island Loophole, allowing our fortune 500 companies to hide their profits there, enabling them to pay zero in taxes one out of every five years!

 

But cutting funding for our seniors, our sick, our blind, our disabled, our hungry, un-educated children is perfectly fine with the GOP, whose John Boehner works less than 20 hours a week on resolving our nation's problems, and trying to convince us it is because Obama is a bad leader!

 

Ask yourself this question, "What legislation could President Obama offer the Republican Party that they would agree on?". We all know the answer! There is no legislation they would agree to, just like the last years have shown us. The Republican Party would rather see our nation fail than to allow President Obama to fix what Republicans have done to our nation, for the sake of the greed of the rich! We all know the rich are doing fine! The goal of the Republican Party is to destroy the power of our Middle Class, giving the rich even more power! These GOP puppets must be stopped! They harbor ill will against our founding father's visions of a strong nation, while all the GOP offered us in the last election was a slave labor trader, whose bases in Communist China has cut our American industries to bits!

While the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelsons, Waltons, Duponts, Monsantos all make billions, our workers wages fall further behind the rate of inflation, year after year, at the hands of the Republicans, sponsored by those who do not care about fair wages. The GOP just cares about campaign financing, and have lost all fealty to a nation of equal men and women gaining access to a fair share of the wealth in the richest nation upon this earth!

 

Wake Up, America! We cannot allow the GOP to ruin our forests, our aquifirs, and our skies, without protecting our wildlife and our access to clean air! The XL pipeline gives America nothing! The shale tars emit many times more carbons into the atmosphere than coal does! The refined oil never benefits America at all because it is pumped directly to the Koch Brother refineries in the Gulf, where the refined products are sold on the world market, where Amercans have to compete for it, while Wall Street will always be able to speculate and keep our prices high, and with too few refineries to actually produce enough to supply our nation with ample fuel, it shall never cost less. 

 

Feb 20, 2013 4:24PM
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Perhaps the establishment could focus on critically important issues such as the economy, the BUDGET (!!!!!!!!), and things like that, instead of pushing their leftist agenda, such as gun control, gay rights, and immigration reform. How about doing your job folks! Instead they wait until it becomes a crisis. Not what we elected you for ya know.....Just saying.
Feb 20, 2013 4:23PM
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Isn't it amazing how the woeking class has to suffer for irresponsible politicans that put us in this mess by over spending. Bet they won't suffer because of the cuts. Why do we keep re-electing people that haven't done anything while in office other than put us further in debt. This country is broke because of their reckless spending. We need to give this country back to the working class like it was in the late 50's and 60's.
Feb 20, 2013 4:23PM
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They should stop slaughtering and selling meat in stores,  as well as eating it, that would create some good karma for the planet wouldn`t that become a peaceful earth.
Feb 20, 2013 4:20PM
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another thing to get the price up the same way they do with gas .what they called spectulators, beef was suppose to go up like 7% this year well its 100%. must be nice to own stock and be a spewctulator on top of it. if anyone deserves to die for terriorism its them
Feb 20, 2013 4:20PM
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This is BS  The  meat processors pay for these inspectors
Feb 20, 2013 4:16PM
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PLENTY OF FOOD RUNNING AROUND IN NATURES SHOPPING MARKET!!! LIBERALS WITH NO GUNS  EAT YOUR GREENS!!!
Feb 20, 2013 4:13PM
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This is nothing to joke about.  Shutting down the meat industry for 2 weeks could weaken it enough to cause a complete collapse.  Debt is real.  Even more so if you are industial and have thousands of employees to pay and massive loan positions like much of the industry.  We could lose major players for good in that short amount of time.

Feb 20, 2013 4:13PM
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Yet another story that the loser Repugnicans have to do their whining about by trying to make it a bash Obama story.   Get over yourselves.  You lost now go to your corner and pout but leave us the heck alone.  Tired of reading your CRAP!!!!!!
Feb 20, 2013 4:11PM
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How about Vilsack laying himself off first and keep the inspectors going?????????????
Feb 20, 2013 4:11PM
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Oh no, now we've done it.

We pissed off the Agriculture department with budget cuts and their gonna take away our meat.

Feb 20, 2013 4:09PM
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the foreign aid keeps flowing ,,hand outs to green energy,,AF1 keeps flying more than some airlines,,,and we the people take it in the shorts first,,,why would you want crap like this in power????
Feb 20, 2013 4:09PM
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yep, IF you get your meat at the supermarket......
Feb 20, 2013 4:06PM
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You can thank the weasels on both sides of the isle. Their spending on pet projects along with our government not operating like a business for years is catching up.

 

Federal gov't spending is out of control.

 

Give me a copy of the budget and a red marker I am sure their is 20% of the spending that goes towards absolute ****.

Feb 20, 2013 4:06PM
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"...would keep meat inspection personnel from going to work for as many as 15 days,"

 

"Farmers raising livestock and poultry would have nowhere to send their animals and would have to shoulder substantial losses,"

 

 

Any farmer who cant keep animals alive an additional 15 days need to go out of business!!

Feb 20, 2013 4:06PM
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Yep, March 1 is just 8 days away...I can hear the old theme from the cop drama, "Dragnet"....."Dom, de, dom, dom, DOM!" ...This is Los Angeles, 800 square miles, my boss is Capt. Slawson, homicide.  The GOP, incl. the saturnine, gloomy Rep. Boehner and his fellow Obama hater, the owlish, funereal Sen. McConnell (go Ms. Judd in Kentucky!) will take the gaff on the so called mass firing starting on the first of March.  Yes, I've never been in lockstep with every  Demo prez and their  policies, and that includes Obama.  He should have put forth his jobs plan over Labor Day, 2009, not in 2011, for example.  Pull out of that graveyard of empires, Afghanistan by next June, not at the end of '14.....

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WHAT???

 

there were fewer than 88 meat inspectors (including the clerical staff) for every 1 billion pounds of meat sold in the US and that was in 2007 I am sure the number is fewer now.

 

So taking the number of meat inspectors from 88 per 1 billion to 80 inspectors would not be a crisis as we are already having a crisis.

 

No wonder we can food poisoning stories every month no one is watching the industry.

 

understand if the inspectors see feces in the meat processing plant going into the meat itself they are not allowed to report it and nothing gets done.

 

Totally gross -- how do the Hebrew people eat meat??? surely nothing they buy at the normal stores is approved.

Feb 20, 2013 4:04PM
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Of course they "lay off" the little guy.  Hey Washington, we are targeting your fat a$$es not the little guy that actually earns money and keeps things moving....  Reminds me of the teachers union...
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