February 27, 2013 Se. Grassley Supports Citizen Safety and Questions Vilsack’s Furlough Plan For Meat Inspectors
MeetingPlace reporters note that a group of U.S senators led by Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is asking USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to clarify how meat inspectors can be furloughed under sequestration and provide the legal rationale that would allow it to occur.
“Furloughing meat inspectors may shut down meat and poultry facilities and harm workers, farmers, and consumers. I find it hard to believe that reductions can’t be made elsewhere in the department that don’t impact health and safety,” Grassley said in a statement.
In a letter to Vilsack, dated Tuesday, the senators asked why the USDA secretary’s recent comments suggest he sees a “rigid legal duty” to furlough all USDA employees including meat inspectors and asked to see the agency’s plan for implanting the cuts.
Vilsack, speaking last week at the USDA Ag Outlook Conference, said the sequester, if triggered, requires the reduction of every budget line item by the same percentage. “It impacts all the processing facilities and plants and production facilities across the country,” he said, according to a transcript.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Vilsack said USDA’s various labor contracts call for between 30 and 120 days’ notice on furloughs, which would affect the date on which the furloughs would begin, according to media reports.