Pharos-Tribune

Local News

March 10, 2013

Cutting pork: Inspector furlough forced by sequester cuts could bring plants to a halt

Meat industry spokesmen say better way should be found.

LOGANSPORT — The equation is simple. Without meat inspectors, a pork plant can’t run.

That’s the gist of concerns among pork processors after the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it’ll be furloughing its meat inspectors starting later this year to comply with the federal sequestration budget cuts.

Sequestration or “the sequester,” which took effect March 1, requires a 5.1 percent cut in the 2013 budget in each USDA program whose funding is categorized as discretionary, according to MeatPoultry.com, a business journal for meat and poultry processors.

That includes some key food safety and nutrition programs, like the Food Safety and Inspection Service, that USDA secretary Tom Vilsack said were essential but wouldn’t have enough funds appropriated to operate at existing levels.

Vilsack has said that each inspector would have to take a dozen furlough days by the end of 2013. Those wouldn’t start happening, however, until after inspectors’ unions and the inspectors themselves had received at least 30 days’ notice that furloughs would be implemented and given a chance to voice any concerns.

At the average large meat processing plant, a dozen USDA inspectors are on duty during each shift, according to senior vice president Janet M. Riley of the American Meat Institute, a meat and poultry trade association. Meat processing plants can’t operate without a minimum number of inspectors on site, she said.

Spokesmen for two local pork processing plants employing nearly 4,000 people all told have said they don’t think the USDA is going to go through with furloughs.

“Because meat inspection has historically been considered ‘essential’ by the federal government, we’re optimistic there will be no interruption in this public health and safety function,” said Worth Sparkman, spokesman for Tyson Fresh Meats, whose pork processing plant on Logansport’s west side employs about 1,900 people. “We do not expect any immediate impact on our business.”

At Delphi’s Indiana Packers pork processing plant, where more than 2,000 people work, the shifts have a total of 19 USDA inspectors, according to president Gary Jacobson.

“If they furlough those [inspectors] and we can’t operate, then we’re looking at a whole lot of people out of work,” Jacobson said. “The federal payroll tax alone would be at least 10 times the loss of those 19 federal inspectors being out.

“I really expect they’ll come up with a different means of accomplishing their savings because it doesn’t make logical sense,” he said.

USDA administrators have discussed furloughing inspectors on staggered schedules, said Jacobson, so as not to have them all gone at one time. But even that could be difficult to pull off.

“There has been discussion of roving, or a rotational deal of having so many inspectors out at a time,” he said. “But again, it’s a highly regulated industry, meat production, so you can’t just take inspectors out and expect to operate normally.”

Inspectors operate as a team, Jacobson explained, each covering a different area of the plant in some cases.

Indiana Packers in Delphi processes upwards of 100 semi-loads of hogs per day, according to Jacobson. “If we have to stop that process, it creates a backup, a ripple effect all the way through the system.”

Hog farmers will still have to make room for piglets being born and sell off hogs ready for market somehow, he explained.

An economist specializing in food production said if plants do end up shutting down temporarily, that effect on consumer prices will be difficult to quantify quickly.

“If they close the plant, the number of hogs coming to market are going to come no matter what,” said Len Steiner, a Manchester, N.H.-based consultant. “It’s certainly likely to raise the cost of production because all of a sudden you’re trying to send the same number of hogs into a four-day workweek.”

But since many factors affect the prices at the grocery store — and because the USDA hasn’t announced its plans yet — he couldn’t say how grocery store pork prices could change.

Any change at the cash register, even if it is due to plants shutting down, is “going to be hard to identify as such,” he said. He added, however, that furloughing inspectors “certainly [has] the potential to raise the costs in the production system, and eventually if you raise the cost the consumer is going to pay for it.”

Spokesmen from trade associations and pork processing companies have spoken with legislators to try to avert USDA inspector furloughs.

“Disrupting food inspection is a disservice to all consumers, including those who work in our plants, raise our cattle, chickens and hogs and invest in our company,” Sparkman said. He added that Tyson is working with industry, labor and consumer groups to help the USDA meet sequestration requirements while still providing inspections.

Sarah Einselen is news editor for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at sarah.einselen@pharostribune.com or 574-732-5151.

 

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Pharos-Tribune eEdition, or our print edition

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • Police Blotter: July 23, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    July 23, 2014

  • NWS-PT072314 Delphi Play2.jpg 'Under the sea': Delphi children ready for musical DELPHI — Young actors and actresses will tell the story of a young mermaid dreaming about being human in Disney’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” this weekend.The Stargazers Children’s Theatre, a program through Delphi’s public library, is presenting the mu

    July 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • NWS-PT072314 Matthew Shuey mugshot - CLG [Duplicate] Police: Peru man punched officer in the face PERU — A 51-year-old Peru man was arrested after flipping off a police officer and punching him in the nose.According to court documents released Tuesday, Peru Officer Matthew Feller was on patrol Friday when he observed Matt Shuey lean out his car w

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Gay couples' lawyers object to full-court hearing INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Attorneys on either side of a lawsuit over Indiana’s overthrown gay marriage ban are wrangling over how many federal judges should hear the state’s appeal, a technical issue that could make a big difference.Those representing gay

    July 23, 2014

  • Police Blotter: July 22, 2014 Have a tip? Anyone with information on a crime is encouraged to call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS. Information leading to an arrest or conviction could lead to a reward of up to $1,000.

    July 22, 2014

  • One dead, one seriously injured in crash on Division Road

    A Logansport man was killed and another was seriously injured in a single-vehicle crash Monday on Division Road.

    July 22, 2014

  • NWS-PT072214 Western Wildfires.jpg Local volunteer to help wildfire victims A Flora resident will be among the volunteers helping those affected by the wildfires in Washington State.Pat Rinehart was scheduled to fly out of Indianapolis International Airport Monday afternoon and join fellow American Red Cross volunteers at th

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-PT072214 Lauren Ray.jpg Logansport graduate makes a go at Hollywood “Instincta,” the latest film by a 2008 Logansport High School graduate, will be screened at the Gen Con Indy Film Festival in Indianapolis in August.It is an action, thriller cop drama short film, starring Logansport native Lauren Zehner Ray, Michael

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • EDU-PT072314 whitley lehr.jpg School's top honor goes to local grad Whitley Lehr chose Indiana University Kokomo because of its excellent School of Nursing. Receiving the campus’ most prestigious scholarships sealed the deal for each of her. The 18-year-old Delphi student called the Herbert Scholarship “a huge blessi

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-PT072214-Gwin3-BCM Landis Elementary teacher back from China experience Steve Gwin has hundreds of pictures already on his new laptop, just months after buying it. He spent the month of June in China teaching to kids at two schools and chronicled about each adventure.Gwin teaches first grade at Landis Elementary and got

    July 22, 2014 3 Photos

Featured Ads
More pharostribune.com
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

The Pence administration continues to cut Indiana agency budgets despite a state surplus of $2 billion. Is this wise management of state funds?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
eEdition