Furloughs for meat inspectors expected to start mid-July

Washington / Reuters / All U.S. meat inspectors will be furloughed on the same days as the federal meat safety agency, a top USDA official said, leading to spotty meat shortages in the summer and fall as automatic spending cuts shave $53 million off the agency’s budget.

The furloughs, expected to total 11 days, are likely to begin in mid-July. None of the days would come consecutively, a move aimed at minimizing disruption to meat packers and processors, which stood to lose $10 billion in production if there was a two-week-long shutdown.

A process called ‘sequestration’ automatically forced the cuts, but critics want to know why front-line services had to suffer. Kansas Republican Kevin Yoder said there was “healthy skepticism” that a five per cent cut in USDA’s funds would necessitate such draconian cutbacks.

“Have you been told to make it as painful as possible?” Iowa Republican Tom Latham asked a senior USDA official during recent hearings.

“Absolutely not,” she replied.

China’s pork prices in steep fall

beijing / reuters / China’s pork prices have fallen 16.2 per cent since late January as supply exceeds demand and the downtrend will persist in the near term, according to the country’s top economic planning agency.

China’s annual inflation quickened to a 10-month high of 3.2 per cent in February, driven by a six per cent jump in food costs. Pork, a staple meat, is a key component of the consumer price index.

The report on the prices came shortly after the discovery of about 6,000 dead pigs in the Huangpu River. It was not clear if there was any connection to the fall in prices.

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