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Budget cuts won't hit meat inspectors immediately, USDA says

Although federal budget cuts are scheduled for March 1, it could be months before a threatened shutdown of U.S. meat plants would occur because of a furlough of meat inspectors, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Vilsack said work rules vary for USDA employees, who get 30 to 120 days' notice of impending layoffs. "I'm not sure what it is in the food-safety area," Vilsack told reporters at the recent USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum after warning that a two-week furlough of all inspectors might be unavoidable. The Agriculture Department has raised the prospect of furloughs repeatedly in the past two weeks as $85 billion in federal budget cuts loom...

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