Meat inspectors, others dodge government cuts
As sequestration continues, the passage of the HR 933 Amendment has prevented slaughter plant furloughs. While the “Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013” saved these jobs, another marketing program was gutted. This Act will keep the government going until Sept. 30.
The American Soybean Association reported in its weekly newsletter that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food and Inspection Service was budgeted an additional $55 million to avoid the furloughing of meat inspectors.
As reported in the Wilson County News Feb. 27, an estimated 6,290 establishments nationwide would be affected, costing more than $10 billion in production losses. The industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages, and consumers would face potentially higher meat, poultry, and egg prices.
While this USDA department dodged the cutting block, another marketing-related issue was not spared.
The National Farmers Union expressed its disappointment about an amendment within HR 933 introduced by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester that was not addressed.
Tester’s amendment, according to the National Farmers Union, “would have removed language in HR 933 that prevents USDA’s Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration from implementing basic fairness protection for poultry growers.” This issue, known as GIPSA, has split the beef industry since it was included in the 2008 Farm Bill.
“Concentration has left poultry and livestock markets uncompetitive,” said National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson in a March 13 press release. “Independent poultry growers are few because of the dominance of vertically integrated poultry integrators. ... If the Senate includes this rider in the continuing resolution, poultry farmers, who have suffered the most from the lack of competitive markets, will be hurt even more,” Johnson warned.
This and other groups will continue to fight this.
The National Farmers Union “will continue to fight for market fairness provisions for family farmers, ranchers, and growers in future appropriations bills and rulemaking,” Johnson said.
Another rider, the Farmer Assurance Provision -- dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act -- sparked a petition drive, asking for President Barack Obama to veto the bill. As of March 26, more than 225,000 people had signed.
The rider, according to Citizens for Legitimate Government, “would strip federal courts of the authority to immediately halt the planting and sale of genetically modified (GMO) seed crop regardless of any consumer health concerns.”
According to a March 22 Food Democracy Now! press release, the provision was allegedly “slipped into the legislation anonymously and explicitly grants the U.S. Department of Agriculture the authority to override a judicial ruling stopping the planting of a genetically modified crop.”
Food Democracy Now!, a grass-roots movement of more than 400,000 farmers and citizens, is “dedicated to building a sustainable food system that protects our natural environment, sustains farmers, and nourishes families.”
“Since losing a court case in 2010 to Center for Food Safety for the unlawful planting of GMO sugar beets,” the group said in a March 26 press release, “Monsanto and other biotech companies have been desperate to find a way around court-mandated environmental impact statements required as a result of a U.S. district court’s ruling.”
While the HR 933 extension funds the government for the next six months, the actions of this bill could affect the ag sector and consumers for years to come.