WASHINGTON – The US Senate March 20 passed an appropriations bill to keep the government running through September. The measure is expected to pass the House.

The bill softens the blow of spending cuts for federal meat inspections and other programs, but leaves in place $85 billion in spending cuts. Sens. Mark Pryor and Roy Blunt wrote the measure that will provide $55 million in funding for front-line meat inspectors. The measure was approved by voice vote.

“The Senate’s bipartisan action today was an important step in ensuring the nation’s turkey plants continue to operate on a full schedule for the rest of the year,” said Joel Brandenberger, National Turkey Federation president. “The threat of furloughs is not completely gone, but we are hopeful the House will concur in the Senate’s action, and USDA then will take the steps necessary to cancel the planned furloughs.”

Mike Brown, president of the National Chicken Council, said the appropriations bill represented a victory that will ensure the federal government can perform its core duties and keep food affordable.

“Through this process, NCC has contended that furloughing FSIS inspectors would be inconsistent with the mandates of the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act and the Egg Products Inspection Act, which prohibit the production, processing, or interstate distribution of meat, poultry and egg products without federal inspection,” Brown said. “The amendment that passed today puts a fine point on the requirements of these mandates.”