Coburn to USDA: 'Cut wine tasting conferences before furloughing meat inspectors'

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Coburn said he sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack urging that he cancel the conferences, one of which takes place next week in California and the other in Oregon next month.

Coburn said that under “normal” prosperous times, it’s fine to hold such conferences where USDA employees taste wine, but that because of sequestration and a $16 trillion deficit, that USDA should cancel the events.

Coburn pointed out that there are several duplicative programs within USDA that could be eliminated to save money. He criticized the Obama administration for threatening food safety by furloughing food inspectors instead of looking at wasteful government spending.

“The time is now,” Coburn said. “Sequester has given us the time to now look at wasteful government spending.

“We ought to cut wine tasting conferences before furloughing meat inspectors.”

The USDA has said they've already achieved $700 million in cost savings by reducing travel and conferences during the last three years. 

"While conferences and workshops have decreased significantly in recent years, farmers and other constituents benefit from these forums because they are part of USDA’s role to support agriculture and the American people," a USDA spokesperson said. 

This article was updated at 7 p.m. to include USDA's response.