Strain: Sequestration could cost state's farmers billions

By By Lance Traweek / American Press

Furloughs of meat and food inspectors due to sequestration, or extensive cuts to government agencies, will cost Louisiana

farmers $4 billion and may affect the availability of meat and produce for consumers, state Agriculture Commissioner Mike

Strain said Thursday.

The Food Safety and Inspection Service will conduct more than 2,000 fewer inspections of food starting today.

“The big issue is if you furlough those

meat inspectors at those plants, there will be a loss of supply going

to our consumers,”

Strain said during the monthly Republican Women of Southwest

Louisiana luncheon. “After 7-10 days there will be a noticeable

effect at the grocery market.”

He said there will be a “lack of appropriate foods on the shelf.”

Louisiana’s farmers, who bring in close to $11 billion annually, are expected to lose $4 billion because of the “backlog of

commerce” due to the sequestration. Strain said he does not know when or how that will happen but that prices will go up.

“If those federal inspectors are not there, then the plant cannot process anything,” he said. “That’s under the law.”

Strain said the issue with sequestration is that Congress “must face the fact that they are spending more than they are taking

in. The budget is nonsustainable.”

The reason sequestration was set up was to force the federal government to deal with the issue, he said. But, he added, the

“sky will not fall” because of sequestration, though consumers “will feel something.”

“We will be able to get through this,” he said. “But there is no alternative to a balanced budget.”

Strain also discussed ways to improve

agriculture in the state, including greater access to markets by

increasing the state’s

ability to export goods. He said the state needs to continue to

set up rules and regulations to cultivate the agricultural

industry, but no law should be created to stifle growth. Bad

policies could be the downfall of “the golden age of agriculture,”

he said.

“Our role in government is to facilitate commerce and to provide for the health, safety and security of our citizens,” he

said. “We know what is best for our state — not Washington.”