If Congress fails to act by Friday, sweeping budget cuts known as "the sequester" will take effect, eliminating resources for numerous departments and services. Anyone who works in the food industry knows that inspections and supply chains are dependent on government workers to operate in a timely manner, and politicians and food execs alike have gone on the record to outline what sequestration ultimately means.
Here are five takes on what to expect:
1. FURLOUGHS WOULD HIT FOOD SAFETY AT FSIS
“Unfortunately, unless Congress acts to prevent sequestration, FSIS will have no choice but to furlough its employees in order stay within the budget Congress has given it,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wrote in a letter sent to the American Meat Institute, Forbes noted. “Because we understand that furloughing our food safety inspectors would not be good for our consumers, the economy, the meat and poultry industry, or our workforce, we view such furloughs as the last option we would implement to achieve the necessary sequestration cut.”
2. SUPPLY CHAINS MAY BE DISRUPTED
“We will have to see how USDA handles the field staff because the supply chains are essentially set up for generally around a 5-day production cycle,” Jim Lochner, the chief operating officer at Tyson told analysts on Tuesday, according to a Talk Business Arkansas report. Though he believes the probability is low, he noted that live animals could back up in the system with products eventually being delayed en route to consumers.
3. FOOD PRICES MAY RISE
“Prices could rise up very rapidly," Terry Roggensack, a commodities analyst for the Hightower Report in Chicago, told the New York Post. Roggensack cited “wild gyrations” that would result from Department of Agriculture furloughs.
4. FOOD AVAILABILITY MAY SUFFER
"What that will mean for the consumer is lack of availability and higher prices," Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said, according a WWLTV report. Strain said that if the current issues in Congress are not addressed in an orderly fashion, disruptions will occur.
5. FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS SHOULDN'T SUFFER AS A DIRECT RESULT
"I'm certainly hoping to see that benefits remain in tact without any decrease to our families who need this to provide food for their families," Patricia Duda, Director of Food & Nutrition Programs, said in a Fox News 44/ABC 22 report. As NPR's Pam Fessler notes, food stamps and other programs for low-income Americans such as Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families will be exempt from cuts.
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