According to Reuters, the U.S. Congress approved $55 million on March 21 to prevent the furlough of all U.S. meat inspectors this summer, a step that could have driven up meat prices and created spot shortages in grocery stores and restaurants. The money for meat inspectors was part of a bill to pay for federal operations through the end of this fiscal year. The bill did not restore budget cuts that took effect on March 1, however.
Introduced by Sens. Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), the measure would redirect $55 million from other areas of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s budget to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, essentially reinstating the funds cut under sequestration. This should be enough to keep its 8,400 inspectors on the job. Senators wrote the shift into the bill on March 20, the House approved it and sent it to President Barack Obama on the 21st.
The threat of one-day-a-week furloughs beginning in mid-July has weighed on cattle and hog prices for weeks. Meat packers and processors are barred from operating their 6,300 plants without USDA inspectors. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement the $55 million “provides us with funding to help address those furloughs.”