Boozman questions USDA sequestration plans

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Boozman claimed Tuesday that the Obama administration is engaged in fear mongering in announcing the most draconian budget cuts possible under sequestration.

In particular, Boozman doubted the need for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to furlough food safety inspectors to meet its share of the $85 billion in budget cuts that are set to take place starting on March 1.

“USDA can continue to meet the demands of food inspection while working under the guidelines of possible cutbacks and the President should provide less fear mongering and more leadership on how to implement the sequester he proposed,” Boozman said.

Boozman joined Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in writing Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to question why meat inspectors would be considered for furloughs rather than reducing the department’s budget in other areas.

“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,” they wrote.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., took to the Senate floor to urge Congress to avoid sequestration because of the damage that would occur should meat inspectors be furloughed.

“Meat inspectors could be furloughed for up to 15 days. That means a temporary closing of meat processors for days at a time,” Pryor said. “Just in my state the impact would be 40,000 jobs in the private sector.”

There are 91 poultry and meat processing facilities in Arkansas, he said.

Vilsack has said that furloughing food safety inspectors would be the last option for the agency to achieve required cuts but acknowledged it is a possibility given the need to reduce USDA’s budget by $2 billion. Boozman questions USDA sequestration plans By Peter Urban Stephens Washington Bureau