NCBA Says Ag Secretary Using Cattle Producers as Pawns in Political Game

Members of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are very concerned with the possibility of a fifteen day furlough of all Food Safety Inspection Service employees. NCBA President Scott George - a Wyoming cattle producer - says USDA and the administration have a legal duty to carry out federal inspections of meat, poultry and egg products. He notes this duty has been recognized as essential in the past. While NCBA understands the hardships placed on USDA agencies through the possibility of sequestration - George says NCBA is severely disappointed Secretary Vilsack has chosen to threaten to halt FSIS inspections. According to George - Vilsack is using America's cattlemen and women as pawns in the agency's political wrangling with Congress. He says announcing the consequences of sequestration in terms of a furlough of FSIS inspectors has cost cattle producers significant amounts of money with a downward slide in the futures market caused by rampant speculation.

Under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act - the production, processing or interstate distribution of meat, poultry and egg products is prohibited absent federal inspection. Therefore - halting FSIS inspections would close down all production, processing and interstate distribution of meat. NCBA says such a move would impact approximately 6,290 establishments nationwide and USDA has estimated the move would cost over 10-billion dollars in production losses. Industry workers they estimate would experience over 400-million in lost wages, consumers would experience limited meat and poultry supplies and potentially higher prices and food safety could be compromised. George says NCBA will not stand by while the administration threatens this kind of action against the industry. The group is calling on producers to contact their members of Congress to send a clear signal to USDA that this is not an acceptable exercise of executive authority.

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