PFA Pioneer Blog
Sequestration talking points inside USDA
Feb 22, 2013
Pro Farmer Extra
- From the Editors of Pro Farmer newsletter -
Feb. 22, 2013
USDA's sequestration talking points
Part of sequester spending cuts means, "We've got less money," according to USDA Sec. Tom Vilsack. That's why he says furloughing meat inspectors is a real possibility starting March 1. And sending meat inspectors home from the slaughterhouse is a big deal... if there's no meat inspectors, then there's no meat processing. That means packers won't bid for animals; feedlots and finishing houses will backup with supplies; retail meat prices will likely push sharply higher on the threat of ultra-tight fresh meat supplies. None of it is good.
But here's the deal -- President Obama has issued Executive Orders at a rate that far exceeds any other president. That's what we expect to happen again... if Vilsack does his job to explain this is a food safety issue and not just a cost-cutting issue.
And Vilsack says they got "less money" to work with under sequestration. Well... that's not exactly right. The $85 billion in "cuts" required by sequestration only reduces the increase in federal spending... it doesn't actually cut spending. So, don't let Vilsack fall back on the "less money" argument... that just isn't true. What is true is they'd lave more money... just not as much as they've budgeted.
Here's the bottom line from Pro Farmer Washington consultant Jim Wiesemeyer:
"Given the attention Vilsack devoted to this topic during his remarks to the Forum and again during the session with reporters, it is almost surprising that he did not have a better grasp of the situation relative to meat inspectors in particular relative to how much notice time they would have to be given before furloughs would start. Further, he did not address any possibility that there could be “administrative actions” taken to avert the sequester cuts for meat inspections in particular – similar to actions the President can take when there is a work stoppage that affects a key area of transportation or commerce. Sources say they cannot rule out such an action being taken in this instance. President Obama's use of executive orders is now widely known, and one should not rule out this avenue should the public health be in danger relative to any threatened food safety inspector furloughs.
"Administration sources signal the “talking points” on the sequester issue have been kept relatively general and have focused on a broad picture of the impacts if the cuts were to unfold. Further, others note a belief that if there are to be furloughs, they could be structured in a way so as not to disrupt inspections as has been warned by Vilsack.
"We continue to believe that, based on our contacts, the sequester cuts impacting inspections will not likely come to pass and a “solution” to the situation could well be melded into the coming decision on funding the US government beyond March 27 when the current continuing resolution expires."
Follow Pro Farmer Editor Chip Flory on Twitter: @ChipFlory
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