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Meat Inspectors’ Furloughs Cut To Three Days

March 6, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More than 9,000 federal meat and poultry inspectors will give up three paid holidays this spring and summmer so the nation’s meat plants can continue grinding out beef and pork for consumers.

As it stands now, the inspectors will not be paid for Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day - holidays when packing plants normally are idle.

The loss of three days salary, as part of an effort to meet the Gramm- Rudman deficit-reduction law, is viewed by the Reagan administration as a way to continue inspections without serious loss of momentum or massive layoffs of employees.

Until a compromise was reached this week, the inspectors were to have been given nine days of unpaid leave to meet the Gramm-Rudman cuts of 4.3 percent this fiscal year, said Lawrence Wachs, associate director of USDA budget and program analysis.

But President Reagan asked Congress on Tuesday to release $5.7 million that had been held back for operating the department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in the fiscal year that began last Oct. 1.

That will be enough to provide meat and poultry inspection the remainder of the fiscal year with only three days of unpaid furloughs instead of the nine that had been expected, Wachs said Wednesday.

″It appears that we’ll try to do that on holidays, so there won’t be any disruption of the meat industry,″ he said.

A nine-day furlough for all inspectors would have shut down meat and poultry plants, which must be federally inspected to remain in business.

The industry and some members of Congress had pressured the Office of Management and Budget for several weeks to accept the plan.

Wachs said $362 million was earmarked for meat and poultry inspection this fiscal year, but Congress held back an additional $5.7 million in case the administration formally asked for more money to operate the agency.

The Gramm-Rudman reduction was $15.6 million, reducing the agency’s funds to $346.5 million, Wachs said. Although the agency had instituted many economy measures, including a hiring freeze the last six months, it still would have needed to get back about $9 million of the cuts to avoid employee furloughs.

With Reagan’s request to Congress for the release of the $5.7 million, the agency’s inspection services now have $352.2 million for the year, which will be enough to squeak by, Wachs said.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Consumer meat prices are going up this year, with increases that could put supermarket beef at record levels, according to Agriculture Department projections.

Overall, retail meat prices may rise 3 percent to 5 percent from last year, when beef averaged about $2.33 per pound, as measured on an all-cut basis by USDA’s Economic Research Service. That was down 7 cents a pound from the 1984 average.

If the 1986 forecast is accurate, retail beef prices could rise to around $2.40 to $2.44 per pound. The record was about $2.43 per pound in 1982.

Those are all annual averages, meaning prices could be higher or lower at different times during the year.

Consumer pork prices in 1985 averaged $1.62 per pound, the same as in 1984, according to the agency’s latest outlook report. An increase of 3 percent to 5 percent would put pork prices at $1.67 to $1.70 per pound. The record was $1.75 per pound in 1982.

In reviewing what has happened, the report said U.S. per capita consumption of red meat and poultry in 1985 was a record of 214 pounds, retail weight basis. That was up three pounds from 1984 and marked the third consecutive year of record consumption.

The 1985 consumption included 79 pounds of beef, 62 pounds of pork, 55 pounds of broilers and 12 pounds of turkey. Both broiler and turkey consumption were at record levels, while beef and pork consumption has remained fairly stable since 1983.

″Per capita red meat and poultry consumption in 1986 is expected to fall about 1 percent from 1985, but will be the second largest ever,″ the report said. ″The large supply of red meat, particularly beef, in 1985 was partially due to record heavy dressed weights for cattle.″

This year, beef output is expected to decline about 4 percent from 1985, and pork production may be down about 2 percent.

Per capita beef consumption in 1986 is expected to decline the most, around 5 percent, with pork projected to drop by about 4 percent, the report said. But broiler consumption may rise 4 percent, and turkey consumption about 8 percent.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Butter production in January rose 15 percent from the year-earlier level to 136 million pounds, according to a monthly report by the Agriculture Department.

January production of American-type cheese, at 239 million pounds, was up 7 percent from a year earlier, and non-fat dry milk output rose 40 percent to 124 million pounds, the department’s Crop Reporting Board said Wednesday.

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