USDA says meat, egg inspections would continue in government shutdown

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Meat, egg and grain inspections conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture are among services that would continue even if the federal government shut down, although most other USDA activities would halt, according to an agency official.

USDA programs that would be suspended in a shutdown include farm loans and other farm payments, agriculture export credit and trade development activities and market news and statistical reports, the official said in an April 7 e-mail.

“Agency operational plans are still being finalized, but in the event of a government shutdown most USDA activities would be shut down or significantly reduced and most USDA employees would be furloughed,” according to the official, who asked not to be named.

“We still believe there is an opportunity to avoid a government shutdown but are working to ensure that we are prepared for all possible scenarios,” the official said.

Meat, egg and grain inspections would continue because they are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property, or are financed through other funding, such as through user fees, according to the USDA official.

The first government shutdown in 15 years looms with authorization to fund federal agencies and services set to expire at midnight Eastern time April 8. Congress and the Obama administration have been locked in a protracted battle over the budget, and if an agreement is not reached, parts of the government will shut down.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) earlier April 7 indicated a shutdown is likely by the end of this week, according to news reports.

Among other USDA programs that would be affected by a shutdown, National Forest System recreation sites across the U.S. would be closed to the public, while assistance for the control of most plant and animal pests and diseases would be discontinued, the USDA official said.

The USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which administers the benefits known as food stamps, has sufficient funding to continue through May, the official said. Another service, the Women, Infants and Children and Child Nutrition program, has funding to continue operations through June.



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