WASHINGTON – Although a government shutdown was averted at the 11th hour late Friday night, industry was relieved beforehand when it learned the US Department of Agriculture indicated poultry and meat inspection would continue in the event of a government shutdown, according to the National Chicken Council.

On April 7, NCC heard about internal discussions within the administration that indicated poultry and meat inspectors would be deemed essential personnel and would remain on duty in the event of a shutdown. USDA grain inspectors who provide weighing and grading services also would remain on the job because their services are paid for by companies through user fees, according to the Dow Jones news service.

In past shutdowns, federal meat and poultry inspectors have always been recognized as “essential” federal employees due to their role in protecting public health and safety and exempted from furlough.

“Withdrawal of inspection services would be completely unnecessary and could cause havoc for our industry and for our customers and consumers across the country and around the world,” said a letter from NCC President Mike Brown and Joel Brandenberger, National Turkey Federation president.

Poultry and meat plants are required by law to have inspectors present during processing and all poultry and meat products in interstate commerce are federally inspected, they pointed out. Not conducting inspection would close the plants, they said, resulting in thousands of people being out of work and leaving animals in transit with no place to unload. Federal personnel are also needed to approve export permits, they added.

Equally important, the loss of production for an extended period of time would push up food costs, they concluded.