It still remains to be seen just how sequestration will affect food safety. According to a memo put out by the Obama administration last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service employees, including meat inspectors, could be furloughed for up to two weeks and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could conduct 10 percent fewer food safety inspections this year.

This was never supposed to happen. Sequestration was supposed to force Congress to compromise. But partisan politics prevailed, resulting in an inability to achieve a broad-based agreement. Now, it appears the USDA might have to pull inspectors out of meat plants for days/weeks. Because an inspector has to be on hand, these plants would have to shut down during these periods.  Never mind that the USDA has a legal obligation to provide meat inspection. The sequestration allows for no wiggle room with the law -- every government agency has to cut everything equally.

I'm not going to sugarcoat it: This is nonsense. We're in the business of custom food production, much of which is made with meat. If my meat product is shipped across state lines, a USDA food inspector must be available to supervise the production. They also inspect our paperwork to make sure we’re complying with all governmental food safety regulations, plus all of the programs we have written up to demonstrate that we are in compliance with the federal government. 

And what happens to all the USDA-inspected packing plants that send us the beef, pork and chicken that we must buy? The food chain, so to speak, will be broken.  And the revenue losses for the entire food production industry will start to mount quickly.

The way the laws are written, we can’t ship across state lines unless USDA food safety inspection personnel are available. If the government doesn't allow them to do their job, we can’t comply with the law, which means we will be shut down.  And while the loss of revenue affects thousands of food-production employees across the nation, every U.S. consumer will feel the effect of higher food prices.

I have three words for our congressional leaders: Work. It. Out.  You're starting to look ridiculous, and that's me being nice.
 

    Frank Violi

    President of Butterfield Foods, a custom food producer based in Noblesville, Indiana.

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custom food production, custom food manufacturing, custom food processing