The White House issued a statement outlining how mandated cuts scheduled on March 1 would impact each state.
Besides cuts to the military and education, the White House statement said the sequestration would cut food inspectors, amounting to up to 2,100 fewer food inspections.
That would put families at risk and cost billions in lost food production, the statement said.
Estimates from national news sources are that the lack of food inspectors would mean food-processing facilities would have to shut down for a maximum of 15 days until inspections could be scheduled.
That would lead to less food available and cause an increase in prices, according national news reports.
However, Glen Echols, the director of the meat inspection section of the Georgia Department of Agriculture said he doesn’t see any of those scenarios happening.
“The Georgia Meat Inspection Section will continue to assure that those critical food-safety functions are performed in all establishments under our regulatory oversight,” Echols said in a statement to questions.
He said the state inspection program must meet the standards of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
FSIS funds up to 50 percent of the cost of implementing the state inspection program, he said.
“Certainly, any cuts to FSIS’ budget will negatively impact the Georgia Meat Inspection Section,” Echols said.
“However, the Code of Federal Regulations and the Georgia Meat Inspection Rules mandate that daily inspections be performed in all livestock and poultry slaughter and processing establishments unless a regulatory exemption applies.”
Curt Lacy, a livestock economist with the University of Georgia (UGA), said he doesn’t see the budget cuts having a significant impact on the industry.
He said the cuts could be handled any number of ways, particularly in
beef and pork processing plants.
Lacy said those producers have some flexibility on when the animal is slaughtered and processed, so those timelines can be worked around inspectors’ furloughs.
Lacy said there is already a beef shortage because of other factors, like droughts, affecting ranchers. However, he said that has nothing to do with federal budget cuts.
Poultry would see more of an impact related to the sequestration because Lacey said they are on a much tighter schedule from hatching to processing.
It is the larger poultry companies that raise and process the chickens that could be affected, he said. “Quite honestly, I think the problem is going to be on the producers’ side, not on the consumer side,” Lacy said.
He said that means there won’t be a shortage and the normal amount of meat will get to market, just maybe a little more slowly.
An official at Tip Top Poultry in Rockmart said threatened cuts would not affect their plant in any way.
Curt McNiff, plant manager, said Tip Top is a cooking facility rather than a slaughterhouse so they fall under different regulations.
“Thankfully, we will not fall into that,” McNiff said, referring to effects of any mandated across-the-board cuts.
For example, Tip Top has one onsite inspector while slaughterhouses are required to have several onsite inspectors.
Also, McNiff said Tip Top isn’t under the same regulations as many large-scale facilities because of the type of product it utilizes.
Tip Top uses “heavy fowl” or older hens. The facilities affected by reduced inspections in the proposed federal cuts use “broiler hens” or young birds.
McNiff said the young birds are typically used in fast-food chicken product.