Details for planned furloughs of inspectors at meatpacking plants are becoming more clear. USDA previously announced the mandatory unpaid days off would be necessary due to the budget cuts mandated under the “sequestration” that took effect on March 1.
According to a Reuters article, Agriculture Undersecretary Elizabeth Hagen told a House Appropriations subcommittee the furloughs will begin in mid-July. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) will select 11 days from July through September on which to furlough all 9,212 U.S. meat safety workers, including over 8,000 front-line workers such as in-plant inspectors. The agency plans to spread the furlough days out so there will not be any consecutive days of work stoppage at the plants.
Most packing plants need the FSIS inspectors to operate, and the furloughs will disrupt meat production somewhat, although USDA says it is trying to minimize the impacts.