Did you know that every animal is inspected by a USDA employee before it is cleared for harvest?
Did you know that FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) inspects all carcasses during the harvest process to ensure that your beef is safe?
Did you know that federal law states that meat can not be shipped or sold without the USDA inspection seal that is given once the above two things have happened?
Did you know that this week the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, threatened to furlough USDA and FSIS employees for at least two weeks beginning March 1st which would effectively shut down meat production in the United States?
I can tell you that knowing the answer to all of these questions has led me to several sleepless nights this week. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to write the Secretary a letter which is listed below. If you are compelled to contact the Secretary, you can send him an email at: Tom.Vilsack@usda.gov
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I write to you today with a heavy heart. I am saddened, I am ashamed, and I am angry. I feel all of these emotions because of your threatening words regarding a forthcoming furlough of FSIS employees. As you know, that furlough would shut down the 6290 packing plants and processing facilities across the United States because it is illegal to slaughter and ship meat without the USDA inspection seal.
Not only would this furlough directly affect the thousands of employees of those packing and processing facilities, but it would also affect every farmer in the nation and the millions of consumers that purchase the products that we work so hard to grow.
My husband and I own and operate a diversified farm in Dawson County, Nebraska. We raise both crops and cattle using a combination of traditional and organic farming practices. Our livelihood revolves around food animal production, and we have spent the last two decades tirelessly working to build a viable farming business. This business becomes non-viable if animals cannot be slaughtered for meat production purposes. Even the 2 week shutdown that you threaten will cause great hardship to us.
Whether your threatening words are signs of a new reality or simply an attempt to play politically motivated games with Congress, they negatively affect our family farming business. Scare tactics that involve the production of food are simply irresponsible and I am gravely disappointed in your behavior. I believe that it is your job as the Secretary of Agriculture to calmly lead our nation’s food growers and aid them in their vital task of feeding their fellow countrymen.
Forgive me, sir, but it certainly appears to me that you are being severely derelict in your duties. As I watch from Nebraska, the livelihood of my farming business is being jeopardized in the name of politics. You, President Obama, and the rest of the administration are threatening the food and fiber of our country with your actions. I would like to take a minute to remind you that you are tampering with both my livelihood and our country’s food security.
In the coming weeks, I sincerely hope that you will designate FSIS inspectors as “essential personnel” and exempt them from the furlough. Additionally, I pray that you will discontinue engaging in scare tactics that negatively affect farmers like me who work so diligently to raise safe and healthy food.
I invite you to take some time to visit my blog site so that you can learn more about two of the many farmers that rely on you for leadership and support. You can access my blog site at http://www.feedyardfoodie.com/.