Sequester could slow N.C. meat production

Posted March 5, 2013

— Add bacon and eggs to the list of things subject to the federal sequester.

Cheeseburgers, too.

Every slaughterhouse in the state must have a meat inspector on hand before it can process chickens, hogs or other animals. Certain meatpacking processes also need to be inspected in order to carry on operations. 

Some of those inspectors work directly for the federal government. Others work jointly for the federal government and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The state and federal governments share half the cost for those joint inspectors.

Furloughed federal inspectors and less money to pay for joint inspectors could mean that everything from liver mush for in-state consumption to hamburger patties packaged for overseas sales could be slowed down.

"That's going to back up the farm," Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said Tuesday morning after sharing the looming problem with other members of the Council of State. Animals stuck on the farm mean higher prices for farmers and potentially higher prices for consumers. 

Roughly two-thirds of the revenue in North Carolina's farm sector goes to meat producers, Troxler said. So, this rather big wrinkle in "protein production" could severely affect the industry.

It could be two or three months before the slowdown fully hits, he said, because federal inspectors must receive at least 30 days' notice before they are furloughed.

At the state level, the situation is more complicated. The federal sequester means less money to pay joint state-federal inspectors, but the Department of Agriculture doesn't have the authority to furlough them, Troxler said.

"I'd say that's getting to be an emergency," said Gov. Pat McCrory, who chairs the council. The governor asked to meet with Troxler and said his staff would look at ways to either help patch the loss of funding or give the Department of Agriculture more flexibility.

Troxler said the department was looking for ways to rotate inspectors to keep disruptions to a minimum. The U.S. Department of Agriculture should notify states of the exact scope of the cuts this week, he said. 

Other state agencies will be feeling the sequester pinch as well. For example, Attorney General Roy Cooper said that joint federal-state Medicaid fraud investigators would be affected, and Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said a state program that helps seniors navigate their different options under Medicare will lose funding.

Troxler said every state in the country would be affected by the meat inspection issue. As for North Carolina, he was not able to immediately put numbers on how many inspectors would be affected or what the potential dollar loss would be.

North Carolina has roughly 100 state-employed meat inspectors, according to the division that conducts inspections. That does not count inspectors who are federal employees.

Troxler said every farmer who raises livestock for meat in the state and every meat processing plant would be affected. There are roughly 190 slaughter and processing plants in the state. North Carolina is the No. 2 hog producer in the nation and No. 2 in poultry production, he said.


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  • downtowner Mar 6, 2013

    Just had a brilliant idea: 1) Wait for FDA to go on the chopping block 2) Rewrite Upton Sinclair's The Jungle 3) Profit.

  • Spock Mar 5, 2013

    The USDA is one of the largest mistakes ever made by President Lincoln! This organization, though has saved a few lives, has and continues to cost this country and the world dramatically. So many times they are the scapegoat of irresponsible business instead of business stepping up to the plate or getting out of business.

  • aspenstreet1717 Mar 5, 2013

    More fear mongering. Instead of getting rid of the deadwood they do something to make headlines. If we had had any leadership the small cuts could have been implemented much more gradually.

  • wayneboyd Mar 5, 2013

    Stymieindurham, Sure did, considered the liberal media source and moved on.

  • Orange RN Mar 5, 2013

    I think based upon these comments that people do not realize that these cuts total 85 billion dollars from federal budgets (all agencies and defense dept, NOT SS and Medicare) from now until Sept. 30. Contract employees are losing their jobs. Federal employees are experiencing pay cuts from 10 – 20% depending upon the number of furlough days required by their agency. Here is a more balanced discussion for more info: http://factcheck.org/2013/03/underselling-the-sequester-cuts/

    It represents real pain for those families affected.

  • Ex-Republican Mar 5, 2013

    "Add bacon and eggs to the list of things subject to the federal sequester. Cheeseburgers, too."

    Well, the First Lady has been challenging Americans to improve their diet anyway. No wonder why the sequester was Obama's idea.

  • doobedobedoodoo Mar 5, 2013

    Except that we're talking Fed budget sequester v. state budget issues Wirklich.....kinda relevant, don't ya think? And besides, it's pretty important for a state to nail down whether or not someone can vote? yeah, that is a priority.

  • newornamentals Mar 5, 2013

    Let's calculate how many meat inspectors we could pay and equipt if they'd cancelled Michelle Obama's $13 million extravaganza vacation to Spain with 23 of her very close friends; all the massive security, full hotel floor of suites, and jet fees paid for by the taxpayer. The first thing Libs do is cancel library, park, police, fire, and other beloved services while protecting billions in union fraud jobs and abuses like these these FLOTUS junkets. Let's use their own terminology from now on: Because of Mr. Obama's impression of The Queen of England polar bears will be drowning and little children go to bed hungry.

  • Wirklich Mar 5, 2013

    Its interesting that on the same day we read right wing bloggers agreeing with budget cuts for regulatory agencies that protect our health (to reduce the deficit;) then, at the same time agree that we need to set aside more monies in the state budget to hire even more government employees and buy hundreds of ID machines to correct voter fraud: a non-issue, fabricated for political points. Wow! Says something about priorities.

  • doobedobedoodoo Mar 5, 2013

    this is a silly story. Has anyone noticed anything different?? Of course not. This piddly sum of forced "cutbacks" will do absolutely nothing to alter the unimaginable debt we (esp. Obama and the Dems) have piled up. We are the "brokest" nation in history.