Blunt’s bipartisan effort blocks layoffs of federal food inspectors

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., was successful Wednesday when the U.S. Senate approved a bipartisan amendment he offered with Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., to exempt federal food inspectors from federal job cuts caused by federal sequestration.

Blunt said the amendment was urgently needed to prevent nationwide meat shortages and higher food prices.

Blunt said a lack of federal food inspectors would cause drastic harm the nation’s food supply and endanger the jobs of many Missourians and farmers working in the meat industry.

“I’m very pleased,” Blunt said, “the Senate unanimously passed this important amendment, which will help protect every family from paying higher food costs. It will ensure that hardworking Americans who make a living at these food inspection facilities won’t have their wages cut.”

The amendment will protect thousands of private jobs in the meat, poultry, and egg production facilities in Missouri and nationwide.

Blunt said President Obama’s plan for layoffs of federal food inspectors would have forced the closure of about 6,300 food inspection facilities in the nation. As a result, more than 500,000 workers would have lost nearly $400 million in wages.

Blunt’s amendment transferred $55 million in existing agriculture funds to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). The change means federal meat inspectors will not be furloughed. Private food packing facilities are required by law to have federal inspectors on meat and poultry production lines in order to operate.

Blunt’s amendment added no additional cost to the bill. Instead, it moved current federal one-time funding for equipment grants and deferred maintenance on buildings and facilities at the United States Department of Agriculture.

Blunt and Pryor serve as the top ranking members of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies.

After the amendment was approved, the Senate passed its version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

The overall agriculture bill increased loan authority funding for rural water and waste water systems, which will update aging infrastructure and provide safe drinking water to rural communities.

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