USDA beef

Spending cuts issued by the Obama administration that will go into effect in May could bring a halt to U.S. meat and poultry production, reports Reuters.

The cuts could result in a furlough of all USDA meat and poultry inspectors for a full two weeks, which would halt production, says Reuters because “by law, meatpackers and processors are not allowed to ship beef, pork, lamb and poultry meat without the Agriculture Department’s inspection seal.”

The halt on spending comes as part of the Obama administration’s “across-the-board” cuts, which will begin in March targeted at “potential spending cuts on everyday life.”

If the shutdown happens, the USDA estimates at least $10 billion in lost production, leading to higher prices and major meat and poultry shortages across the country. The industry says it will be a devastating move. Reuters reports that Americans consume “more than 200 pounds (91 kg) of meat apiece each year, an average of slightly more than one-half pound a day.”

The USDA spends approximately $1 billion each year on meat safety procedures and inspections facilitated by 8,4000 inspectors at nearly 6,300 slaughtering and processing plants across the nation.

Reuters reports that the trade group, the American Meat Institute, said “the USDA should try to keep meat plants open while meeting targets for cuts, rather than going ahead with a mass furlough.” The group suggested the USDA suspend “non-essential programs” and “furlough employees other than inspectors to avoid ‘inflicting unnecessary hardship’ on the meat industry.”

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Image: USDA