On Thursday, the House passed H.R. 933, the continuing resolution which contained a similar amendment to that which passed the Senate Wednesday. The amendment, authored by Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Mark Pryor of Arkansas would shift $55 million from the USDA accounts to pay Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors through Oct. 1, 2013, when the new fiscal year begins. The bill now heads to the President’s desk for his signature.
"This is great news for every segment of American agriculture," said National Cattlemen's Beef Association President Scott George, a cattleman from Cody, Wyo. "With this shift of finances, Congress was able to avoid the crisis created by the administration and keep FSIS inspectors in the plants where they belong. While cattlemen and women were disappointed Secretary Vilsack threw in the towel on his agency’s 107-year-old duty to provide federal food safety inspections, we sincerely thank Senators Blunt and Pryor for ensuring the nation’s food supply will not be limited by politics."
Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906 and related legislation, all meat, poultry and egg products produced here in the United States or imported must be inspected by a federal food safety inspector and that service must be paid for by the federal government. Without the inspection, no product can be sold or shipped interstate.
"Had inspection been halted, this would have resulted in a backlog of animals, shortened supply of beef to market, higher prices and harm to the futures markets," said George. "By the Secretary’s own estimates, this would have equated to $10 billion in production losses and $400 million in lost wages, only compounding the issues faced by ranchers dealing with the worst drought in fifty years."
Under sequestration the FSIS was expected to take a total cut of $52.8 million, or 5 percent of its budget. In that event, furloughs would have been required of all 9,212 employees of the FSIS, including 8,136 meat inspectors and others on the front line such as lab technicians. The furloughs were expected to be taken one day per week between July and the end of the fiscal year in September.