Carpenter who grows grains and okra,came to the capital Tuesday to listen to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack testify. The farmer said the cuts could be disastrous for him and other farmers.
“When this happens,I won’t be able to farm. The cuts will affect plans and the budget on the farm,” Carpenter said.
Vilsack told the House Agriculture Committee that the sequestration will affect food inspection,farm credit and exports.
Vilsack said there is uncertainty about the farm bill and called on lawmakers to hasten to pass it.
“The most significant thing that could be done this year would be for us to get a five-year farm program through the process,” he said. “That will provide the certainty for producers and for rural America and reaffirm the importance of rural America to the rest of the country.”
Sequestration will affect food inspections and trigger furloughs. This means that companies that produce meat will have to wait until inspectors from the Department of Agriculture inspect their meat before they can sell it. Vilsack said companies are not required by law to engage private inspectors.
“Mr. Chairman,the Food Safety Inspection Act requires companies that want to sell meat,process,pack – whatever – to have those items inspected before they can sell them to customers,” he said.
“The law also requires that the companies cannot privatize,if you will,that inspection. It has to be done by USDA officials,” Vilsack said.
He said it would take some months before companies will start to feel the impact of furloughs. This is because the department is sending notices to the unions and workers,who cannot be furloughed without a 30-day notice.
He said some of the workers do not have email accounts,which will delay the furlough because the department has to confirm that they have received the notice.
Vilsack said the sequestration will not affect the quality of food served to children in schools. Vilsack said the department will continue to ensure that nutritionally balanced meals are provided to school children.
The agriculture secretary,who is remaining on the job in President Barack Obama’s second term,got a generally friendly reception.
Rep Rodney Davis,R-Ill.,asked Vilsack why the department had advertised to fill three jobs for experts to grow worms in Phoenix when it should have been preparing for cuts. Vilsack said he was not aware of the job postings but said whether the department hired or not it is braced for the cuts.
Carpenter said he came to the hearing to learn more about the proposed farm bill for the next five years. Congress failed to renew the bill last year.
“I came here to listen to the farm bill and to see what programs they have available for us,” he said.
Carpenter said he hopes the bill could reduce some of the impact of the sequestration.
Reach reporter Eddie Ameh at [email protected] or 202-326-9868. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.