Federal meat inspectors are reporting to work without pay during the partial government shutdown, said an industry trade group on Wednesday, as the USDA called on 9,700 furloughed FSA employees to reopen offices nationwide today to serve farmers and ranchers.
About half of the USDA’s local offices will be open for three days, beginning Thursday, to deal with existing farm loans and provide tax documents to farmers and ranchers. USDA employees will not consider applications for new loans, the new dairy support program, disaster relief, or Trump tariff payments.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said Carmen Rottenberg will lead USDA's meat inspection agency, Richard Fordyce will head the Farm Service Agency, and Bruce Summers is the new chief of the Agricultural Marketing Service.
Brazil is the world's largest red meat and poultry exporter, but it is losing customers in a scandal over allegations that meatpackers have sold unsafe products for years, said the BBC. Four markets — China, the EU, South Korea and Chile — that account for nearly one-third of meat exports "have now announced restrictions on Brazilian meat."
The fines for safety lapses are so low that meatpacking companies have little incentive to improve working conditions, says a story by Harvest Public Media on NPR. When Ralph Horner, an employee at JBS’s Greeley, Colorado beef facility was caught on a conveyer built and chocked to death, JBS paid just $38,500 in fines. And that was more than most cases, according to Herb Gibson, director of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Denver office, which sends inspectors to the massive Greeley plant. Every day, the plant’s 3,000 employees process roughly 5,600 head of cattle.
A private foundation has paid $60,000 since 2008 to underwrite international prayer trips by Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees USDA, reports Roll Call. Aderholt told the newspaper there was "absolutely nothing" improper in the travel.