Thursday, April 07, 2011

USDA Reveals Government Shutdown Plans

A list of the USDA services and programs that will stop in the event of a federal shutdown; child nutrition programs, food safety inspections preserved...
President Obama
is meeting at the White House for the third time this afternoon with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to try to negotiate a 2011 budget deal to prevent a shutdown of the federal government, which would occur at midnight on Friday. In the event that a deal can't be reached, the USDA has plans in place to keep meat, poultry, egg, grain and other commodity inspections active during the shutdown period, but will be halting most other agency activities.

Child nutrition programs, including Food Stamps, National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs, and WIC, are funded through May and June, but most USDA employees will be furloughed. Ag reporter Jerry Hagstrom, of the subscription-only The Hagstrom Report, got the full details from a USDA official this morning about shutdown plans, and tells ObFo that the plans are still being finalized, but USDA is attempting to prepare for "all possible scenarios." Below, Hagstrom's recap.

The USDA shutdown scenario:

>USDA activities that are related to law enforcement, the protection of life and property, or are financed through available funding (such as through user fees) will continue.

This includes:

*Meat, poultry and egg inspection services

*Grain and other commodity inspection, weighing and grading services funded by user fees

*Inspections for import and export activities to prevent the introduction and dissemination of pests into and out of the U.S.

*Forest Service law enforcement and fire suppression efforts

>Funds have been made available to continue the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and Child Nutrition (National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs) programs through June.

>The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) program has sufficient funding to allow benefits to continue through May.

USDA programs that will go on hiatus during a federal shutdown:

*Farm loans and other farm payments

*Provision of conservation technical and financial assistance

*Provision of new rural development loans and grants for housing, community facilities, utilities and businesses

*Agricultural export credit and other agricultural trade development and monitoring activities

*National Forest System recreation sites across the U.S. would be closed to the public

*Market news reports, National Agricultural Statistics Services work, and other agricultural economic and statistical reports and projections would be discontinued

*Investigation of packers and stockyards related to fraudulent and anti-competitive activities

*Assistance for the control of most plant and animal pests and diseases would be discontinued

*Research facilities would be closed except for the care of animals and plants

*Most departmental management, administrative and oversight functions, including civil rights, human resources, financial management, audit, legal and information technology activities would be discontinued or severely curtailed.

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This morning, the American Meat Institute sent a letter to the President and lawmakers urging that government food safety inspectors be identified as essential personnel in the event of a government shutdown. Read the letter here.