WASHINGTON – One-day-a week furloughs for meat inspectors will likely begin in mid-July, according to news reports.

Agriculture Undersecretary Elizabeth Hagen testified at a House Appropriations subcommittee that all meat inspectors will be furloughed on the same days as the US Department of Agriculture. Hagen said USDA opted for the same-day furloughs to treat all regions equally. Furlough days would not be consecutive to minimize disruption in the meat industry.

However, the furloughs could cause spotty meat shortages during the summer and fall. USDA workers must take off a total of 11 days of unpaid leave before the end of September to cut $53 million off the USDA's budget. Hagen said that 87 percent of the Food Safety and Inspection Service's budget is personnel costs, and that 8,678 of the 9,750 FSIS workers are front-line employees who test for pathogens and check for compliance issues.