Meat inspector furloughs averted; industry praises Congress

Included in the $984 billion package approved by the House is a provision directing $55 million toward the U.S. Agriculture Department’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The measure effectively replaces cuts required by the $85 billion sequester that would have prompted the agency to furlough thousands of federal meat inspectors around the country for up to 11 days.

Meat processing and packing plants cannot operate without onsite inspectors.

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Under an amendment to the spending legislation penned by Sens. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntTrump's legal team huddles with Senate Republicans Overnight Defense: Trump cancels presser, cuts short NATO trip | Viral video catches leaders appearing to gossip about Trump | Dem witnesses say Trump committed impeachable offenses | Trump reportedly mulling more troops in Middle East Trump legal team gears up for Senate impeachment trial in meeting with GOP senators MORE (R-Mo.) and Mark PryorMark Lunsford PryorTom Cotton's only Democratic rival quits race in Arkansas Medicaid rollback looms for GOP senators in 2020 Cotton pitches anti-Democrat message to SC delegation MORE (D-Ark.), the funding would be shifted to FSIS from other USDA accounts.

“We are gratified that lawmakers recognized the essential nature of meat and poultry inspection by taking this step to prevent inspector furloughs,” said J. Patrick Boyle, president of the American Meat Institute.

Agriculture Secretary Tom VilsackThomas James VilsackUSDA: Farm-to-school programs help schools serve healthier meals OVERNIGHT MONEY: House poised to pass debt-ceiling bill MORE had been adamant that meat inspector furloughs would be in order, if Congress did not intervene. The industry, meanwhile, warned of a potential meat shortage and ensuing price increases if inspectors were furloughed.

The Blunt-Pryor amendment was accepted by voice vote before the continuing resolution bill cleared the Senate Wednesday by a 73-26 vote.

The House approved the spending package by a tally of 318-109, sending the bill to the president’s desk.