Senator Pat Roberts, a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, said that under law, USDA is obligated to perform meat and poultry inspections for the safety of consumers despite threats by the Obama Administration to furlough Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees due to forced spending cuts set to take effect March 1, 2013.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with other senators from rural states, Roberts decried the scare tactics of the Obama Administration in implementing spending cuts that amount to a small percentage of government funding, writing, “We are confident you have the ability to implement sequestration at USDA without jeopardizing the ability of Americans to feed their families and seriously hurting U.S. farmers, meat and poultry production facilities, and workers in those facilities.”

“The administration should produce legal justifications and furlough plans to provide transparency to the American people for USDA’s implementation of sequestration,” Roberts said. “The costs to farmers and ranchers, already hard hit by drought, will be enormous.

“USDA must explain whether it can cut costs and other operating expenses to protect the safety and availability of our food supply.”

Industry experts say the USDA furloughs would cause meat, poultry and egg product plants to shut down, impacting approximately 6,290 establishments nationwide and costing more than $10 billion in production losses, while industry workers would experience more than $400 million in lost wages.

Roberts joined Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in sending a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack signed by Senators Thad Cochran, Deb Fisher, Mike Johanns, John Boozman, Saxby Chambliss, John Hoeven and Jerry Moran.

A copy of the signed letter can be found here.