Congress approved $55 million to prevent the furlough of all U.S. meat inspectors this summer, a step that could have driven up meat prices and created spot shortages in grocery stores and restaurants.
The USDA was planning the furloughs to deal with a $1.9-billion cut in funding. But in a special step, lawmakers shifted $55 million in funding so to keep its 8,400 inspectors on the job. Livestock futures prices in Chicago rose following the House vote. The threat of one-day-a-week furloughs beginning in mid-July has weighed on cattle and hog prices for weeks. Meat packers and processors are barred from operating their 6,300 plants without USDA inspectors.