Sequestration 2013: With Budget Cuts Looming, What Will this Mean for Your Food?

One part of the total $85 billion cuts across the federal budget that are set to start kicking in this Friday as part of sequestration is hitting close to home – our dinner table.

The automatic and across the board cuts threatening the federal budget, should Congress and White House not come to a deal by Friday, March 1 is bringing concern to local butchers, who stand to be affected by the cuts.

Don Roden, owner of “The Organic Butcher of McLean” says he’s trying to find out now how his business could be hit by the devastating cuts.

“It’s kind of quietly creeping up on us,” Roden said today at his store in McLean, Virginia, “at the rate we’re going there’s a good chance that it might not necessarily be price going up, really just product not being available for an undetermined amount of time.”

Without agreement from Congress, the automatic spending cuts, as brokered by Congress as part of the Budget Control Act, will kick in this Friday. The government has warned that as a small part of the cuts, could be a furlough of meat inspection workers, causing a potential nationwide shutdown of meat and poultry plants.

Fewer inspectors mean fewer products. Fewer products drive meat prices right up, a concern to local butchers.

“That’s a huge concern,” Roden said of the threat of the sequester, “If this happens I think prices may go up a little bit at first, but I think the product potentially won’t be available. If it’s spotty and here and there it’s available, then yeah, it’s going to go up -- it will have to.”

With fewer inspectors available it could also open up the potential that the detection of foodborne illnesses could be compromised, the USDA has said.

For some consumers that was not acceptable.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Kelly Haney of Silver Spring, Maryland said while food shopping today, “it very important to me and my family that we have real healthy beef as well as all other food and I really, really don’t like to idea of the government doing anything to hamper that.”

In the already struggling economy local residents said that they’ll likely just have to buy and eat something else besides meat.

“If the meat gets pricier, I’ll just have to eat more vegetables,” Joseph Garner of McLean, Virginia said today.

But it’s not just meat that stands to be affected; vegetables could be at risk too.

The Agriculture Department has also warned that if the cuts go into effect there will be less money available for pest and disease prevention, which potentially could hit farmers hard with more outbreaks to their crops.

“There will be a safety issue,” Shopper George Ruppert of Arlington, Virginia said, “I am worried about that, especially for young children. I have young grandchildren. I am concerned about them.”

Local residents out food shopping today say they’re used to this type of Washington dysfunction, just not when it reaches their dinner table.

“I think I can see that somehow we would all be affected,” Kelly Haney said, “but I never imaged it would come down to the meat on my table.”

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